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Who Should Pay for Autism Treatment?

Medical treatment for autism is exceedingly expensive. Many parents of autistic children take out a second mortgage on their homes and some even file for bankruptcy because they are unable to pay the costs of autism treatment that insurance does not cover. Many believe that this situation is not fair and that the government should step in to alleviate the hardships these parents endure.

In Virginia, proponents of House Bill 83 are trying to pass a law, similar to one already passed in eight other states, that would require insurance companies to cover the medical costs of treating children with autism.

Will this law reduce the cost of autism treatment? No. Legislators cannot change the fact that treatment for autism is so costly. All they can change is who pays for the treatment. The proponents of House Bill 83 seek to pass that burden to insurance companies.

This bill will make it illegal for insurance companies to offer coverage that does not include treatment for autism, even if they can offer a more affordable insurance package without such coverage. This means that everyone will be forced to buy coverage for autism treatment, even if their children don’t need it or if they don’t have children at all. (In fact, spiraling insurance costs are in part due to more and more benefits being mandated by law.)

Insurance companies’ costs will obviously increase if they are forced to pay for the treatment of autistic children. To offset this additional cost, insurance companies will do one of two things: they will either offer fewer medical services to maintain the current premiums or increase the premiums for everyone. In the former case, vital medical services will no longer be covered, and patients who rely on these services will have to pay more for them. In the latter case, all insured individuals will be charged a higher premium, which means that some people who have health insurance will no longer be able to afford it and fewer employers will be able to offer health insurance to their employees.

Parents of autistic children in support of this bill argue that “they should be able to give their children any treatment they feel works and not be socked with astronomical medical bills.” Whatever their intent, in practice this means others are socked with these bills.

Autism is a devastating condition that requires serious medical attention. The plight of parents with autistic children can be tragic. However, does their tragedy justify prohibiting others from purchasing the insurance policy that best fits their needs? Is the emotional hardship felt by these families a justification to coerce others to pay their medical bills?

People work hard to earn money in order to attain those goods and services that make their lives enjoyable and worth living. Consider what this bill means to those who do not have autistic children: instead of spending their money on that which they value, now they will be forced to spend that money on other people’s autistic kids. Many families who already find health insurance difficult to afford will now be forced to decide whether they want to spend more for their health insurance or instead use this money for other important expenses, such as investing it towards a college education for their children or paying their rent or mortgage. If it is unfair for parents of autistic children to have to pay their children’s medical bills, how much more unfair is it for other parents to have to pay the same bills? Demanding that people hand over their hard-earned money without regard for the consequences such an action will inflict on their lives is unjust.

Laws like the one suggested in House Bill 83 are the purview not of the freest country in the world, but of the failed communist ideology of countries like Soviet Russia and Cuba. America is founded on the principle that individuals should be free to pursue their own happiness, not that happiness should be granted to all at the expense of others.

There is nothing wrong with voluntarily charity to help families struggling to pay for autism treatment. Such a situation is indeed difficult for those parents, and they deserve our sympathy. House Bill 83, however, forces all insurance policy holders in Virginia to foot the medical bill of the minority of those with autistic children. This kind of forced charity is slavery, not sympathy. It is reprehensible and un-American. House Bill 83 should be vehemently opposed by all.

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