Families Cope With Financial Burdens of Austism

Filed under: In The News

stack of money

The cost of raising an autistic child contributes to parents' stress. Credit: AMagill, Flickr

Parents whose children are diagnosed with autism suffer more than just the emotional burdens of dealing with the condition -- they also face severe financial stress.

A study out of the Harvard School of Public Health estimates the cost of caring for a person with autism to be $3.2 million over a lifetime. According to The New York Times, more families are coping with autism than ever before and the numbers will only keep growing.

One out of 110 American 8-year-olds has been diagnosed with autism, according to a recent survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; that's up from one in 150 in a previous report. The numbers also reveal that boys suffer the most -- one out of every 70 has autism.

"The numbers are just amazing," Pat Kemp, executive vice president of the advocacy group Autism Speaks, tells the Times. "Unless we attack this like a national health crisis, we're going to have a huge economic crisis on our hands."

Many health insurance companies don't cover the costs of autism treatments, leaving parents scrambling to pay for services their children desperately need. But the news isn't all bad: The Times reports that 15 states have legislation requiring coverage for autism services, and that Maine and New Hampshire have laws pending that would offer parents some financial relief through their insurance coverage.

But even for those who have coverage for autism-related treatment, the bills can quickly get out of hand. Jeff Sell's twin sons were found to have autism 13 years ago, he tells The Times, and he has paid many of the enormous costs of their services out-of-pocket.
"What works for one child doesn't necessarily work for the other," Sell tells the newspaper. "So we're talking about finding and paying for twice as many treatments."

There are resources out there for parents coping with the finances of autism and Sell urges them to leverage all the services available, including taking advantage of a Medicaid waiver that offers coverage for kids with autism without taking the family's income into account. To see if your state offers a the waiver and to determine your child's eligibility, go to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' Web site.

"Just go ahead and get on the list and try not to be too discouraged," Sell tells the Times. "Many states are moving faster now."

Should states compel insurance companies to offer coverage for autism?


Related: Community Support and Training for a Family Affected by Autism

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