Monday, March 2, 2009

Basu: "Who Should Pay for Autism Treatment?"

The March 1, 2009 Undercurrent has an excellent discussion of Virginia's proposed autism coverage mandate by Rituparna Basu. Here's an excerpt:
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.

...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.

...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.
Read the whole thing here.

I especially like the fact that Ms. Basu integrates the economic and moral arguments against insurance mandates. IMHO, we badly need more such health policy analysis along these lines.