Air Quote *This*

September 24, 2010

Sharron Angle’s unbelievably simpleminded comments regarding Autism insurance coverage have angered this 40 year old registered Republican to the point that I’m leaving the GOP and will vote for Harry Reid.

I realize this is a long post. This is not about “Obamacare“ or “Big Government”. The CliffsNotes version of this post is that I pay a lot of money for private insurance, I’d like the right of using it to help my daughter who is affected by Autism. Republican and Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle has promised to revoke a recent law that would end years of discrimination and grant me this right.

A bit about me: I am a proud UNLV graduate and have been a Nevada resident since 1988. I pay my taxes and I vote. I’m friendly, and while I’m upside down on my house, I continue to pay my mortgage. I coach youth soccer and I drive four school carpools. My yard is tidy despite the fact that I can’t seem to keep my pool from becoming a swamp. In short, I’d like to think I am the type of neighbor everyone would enjoy having when they think of living in suburban America. I make a comfortable living working in the hi-tech industry for one of the largest software companies in the world. In addition to what my company pays for my family’s health insurance, I pay an additional $1,200 a month after taxes for premium coverage to ensure that my children have access to the doctor of our choice, at any time, and are never at the mercy of a HMO. This health insurance, that I pay for with money that I earned and payed taxes on, is supposed to cover the health needs of my entire family. The definition of my entire family includes me, my wife and five daughters, the youngest of which is affected by Autism.

Despite having this extensive private coverage, it is almost impossible for me to use my insurance towards any of the proven effective treatments and behavioral interventions geared towards Autism to help treat my daughter. These treatments are not the radical approaches, experimental techniques, or homeopathic remedies that spark controversies and debate. The treatments we seek and get denied coverage for are speech therapy, occupational therapy, and Applied Behavioral Analysis. Like Sharron Angle, most insurance companies put air quotes around Autism, indicating that they do not believe it is a valid medical condition that deserves coverage.

For the past three years we have been paying cash for these scientifically proven therapies and interventions, while also paying for insurance coverage we cannot use. We do so because our daughter needs these therapies to have some semblance of what most of us would call a normal life. She is our child, whom we love as much as any of our other four girls, and we will do what ever it takes to give her any advantage over her disorder. We are not looking for a handout, we simply want to use the insurance that we pay for, but are currently denied the right to do so.

This is exactly what the Autism Insurance Reform Bill (AB 162) was designed to do. It will finally bring an end to the discrimination that insurance companies have been practicing for years. It will finally allow families, who have private insurance and are affected by Autism, access to affordable, effective therapies and the professionals who perform them. Perhaps it will also stop the snake oil selling charlatans who prey on desperate parents looking for anything to make their life just a little more manageable. Sadly, (but understandably) many parents of children affected by Autism have resorted to a “try anything” mentality after having been continually denied access to the therapies, techniques, and interventions that do work by their private health insurance company. In most cases the “alternative” approaches to treating autism only result in lost money. In some cases, they result in the loss of an innocent life. Most importantly, I’d like to think that Nevada’s AB 162, and similar insurance reform laws being enacted around the country, will stop things like this from ever happening again.

But before a single Nevadan has had the chance to benefit from the Autism Insurance Reform Bill, Sharron Angle would like to get rid of it. In fact she promised to do so, and Sharron says she always keeps her promises (like her promise to debate Senator Reid on Live TV?). Is candidate Angle really that naive to think insurance companies will lower their premiums because they won’t have to cover Autism diagnosis and related therapies? The truth is that health insurance companies barely cover any of these therapies today by having ridiculously low lifetime maximums (they are less than I pay the each year for insurance premiums) and cruel pre-existing condition clauses, all while enjoying record profits. There is nothing wrong with a business being profitable, but when the gains are ill-gotten, they must be held accountable to the people.

On the few rare occasions that these therapies are actually covered by private insurance, the insurance companies will almost always refuse to pay the bill initially, despite the fact that your child has a medical diagnosis of Autism from a fully certified doctor. A doctor whom is on that insurance company’s approved list of physicians. Unfortunately, this has forced the those who specialize in health care for Autism related disorders to run a cash only business. They know the insurance companies too well, and after years of slow pay or no pay, insist on up front payment of services from their clients. From there it takes months to get reimbursed and it is rarely at the rate that your plan dictates. Insurance companies use the excuse that providers are “out of network” paying often less than 50% of the bill, yet they never offer any “in-network” alternatives. They typically deny reimbursements for the same exact therapy that you fought with their review board over, and got approval for, the month prior. They continually cite that “additional documentation is necessary” even though you’ve sent them the multi-page medical diagnosis so many times that you need to buy a new fax machine. In addition to the full time job of being “Mom and Dad” while working someplace that pays them actual dollars, parents are required to assume the roles of bill collectors, defense attorneys, and advocates when dealing with health insurance companies. If you work for a big enough company that provides a significant amount of revenue to these health insurance companies, you can usually take advantage of having a specialist from your benefits department assist in the above, but even then it is more stressful and frustrating than words can describe.

The irony here, a concept that I would venture to guess escapes Sharron Angle, is that the Autism Insurance Reform Bill was targeted towards those, who at least from a socioeconomic standpoint, would normally be considered her voter base. AB 162 is not “Obamacare”, rather it’s what other health care legislation should strive to be. It simply prevents private insurance companies from discriminating against those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. It is no different than similar laws enacted which make it is illegal to drop coverage for someone who gets diagnosed with cancer or other serious illnesses that will prove costly from a care standpoint. To the people who blindly refer to laws like AB 162 as a “government run health plan”, you might be surprised to know that plenty of state, federal, and private programs already exist that will pay for these therapies in full with no cost to the families. These programs, designed to assist with the financial burdens encountered raising children with special needs, have existed through every GOP Presidency and GOP controlled congress since Nixon. However to qualify for these programs, a family needs to be around the poverty threshold financially. Again, from a purely socioeconomic standpoint, the people who qualify for these programs would not be considered the GOP voter base. She is not only misleading her own voters, but she is also hurting them financially. Neither she, nor her advisers are intelligent enough to realize this. Should Sharron Angle get elected and keep her promise to strike down AB 162, I would be far better off quitting my job and relying on the taxpayers in order to get my daughter the care she requires. And that, supporters of Sharron Angle, is the definition of irony.

While I’ve made a comfortable living since my 30′s, I know that I will most likely never be able to retire. Before Autism, we had a plan: 401K, Stocks, savings. Since my daughters diagnosis, I’ve cashed out my entire portfolio so she can receive the treatment she needs for her disorder. Treatment that I am denied coverage for by my private insurance company, regardless of the fact that I already pay them more than what most US citizens earn on a yearly basis for premium coverage.

Despite all of this, I really do consider myself fortunate because we can get my daughter some of the treatment she needs and that it is working. Most families forgo treatment all together because they simply can’t afford it even though their jobs provide them with private health insurance. For these families, and the millions of their children that are affected by Autism, the financial burden of their care will eventually fall on the taxpayers. Without fair access to the affordable and effective treatments that Autism Insurance Reform Bill provides, this burden will continue to grow.

Autism affects more children than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined, yet only receives less than 5% of research funding of any single one of those childhood diseases. From a National spending standpoint, Autism research is allocated a mere 0.5% of the National Institutes of Health research funds, despite the fact that incidence rates are rising. They are rising so quickly that some are forced to try to explain it away via their opinion that health care professionals are either getting at better at diagnosing Autism or worse at it. If the latter were true, then there should be 1 in 110 people across all age groups that are considered to be on the Autism Spectrum. Where are the millions of 30, 40, and 50 year old Americans that have this disorder? Studies show that they don’t exist even in a fraction of the same numbers that are occurring today. If the former were the case, why is this all of a sudden becoming an issue? Why does every school in the 5th largest school district in the US have a program dedicated to kids on the Autism Spectrum?

The rise in real medical diagnosis’s of Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD) is a serious issue. I know this because I see the families affected by Autism every day. I know this because these numbers did not exist when I was of school age. I know this because most people had never heard the world Autism was until they saw Rain Man in 1988, yet expect my daughter to act like the character portrayed in that movie. I know this because I had four typical kids before Autism entered our lives, a disorder that now controls every single aspect of our daily lives. Those affected by ASD are not “Stupid. Or Lazy. Or Both” or “brats” nor do they “lack discipline at home“. They are our sons, our daughters, our loved ones whom have a real medical disorder that causes their brains to operate differently than typical people. Thus, they need to be taught differently, and they need to be treated with different therapies and interventions to help them succeed. You can bet there will be many more people affected by ASD in the near future until science can figure out what is going on.

Today Autism has no known cure, nor is there a scientifically agreed upon method to prevent it. I’m not here to argue Thermisol, pesticides, or food additives. The simple fact is that the therapies I discussed above, are the very same therapies that would be provided by Autism Insurance Reform Bill. These therapies are scientifically and socially proven to be effective in helping to those affected by the disorder. Not only can these therapies lead to a child’s first eye contact, their first smile, or even their first word ever, they are lifetime investments in that child. For many on the spectrum, these investments allow them to become productive and integrated members of our society. Productive, integrated citizens are contributors to society, not burdens upon it. History shows all too well that things that which we lack empathy for will cost us dearly.

Sharron Angle’s desire to eliminate the Autism Insurance Reform Bill will result in a financial crisis, the likes of which have never been witnessed. Obesity, a 100% preventable health issue, costs more than $100 billion dollars a year. Imagine what the cost of providing long term care and housing will be for a significant part of the population because they were denied access to the necessary social tools required to deal with society? I wish I could say Sharron Angle’s view on insurance coverage for those on the Autism Spectrum was just classic case of “penny wise, pound foolish”, but it is so much more than that.

It is financially irresponsible.

It is socially malicious.

It lacks the empathy that was once considered a core trait of being an American.

Sadly, it’s just more of the same from Sharron Angle. While I really hate to use political taglines and soundbites, candidate Angle has indeed proven to me that she is “too extreme”. But should I really expect anything less from a person who said they would counsel pregnant victims of rape and incest that “two wrongs don’t make a right,” and that it is possible to make “a lemon situation into lemonade“? Not only is she too extreme, she is dangerous for Nevadans and all Americans. Dangerous because she espouses blind hatred, indifference, and selfishness. These traits will destroy the America we all love. Please join me in voting for somebody other than Sharron Angle. If you won’t vote for Harry Reid, consider using the None Of The Above option. Nevada is the only state in the US which allows you this luxury.

To my (former) fellow conservatives who have read this far, please consider the slippery slope you are about to embark upon:

Republican and Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle doesn’t think I should have the right to use a service, that I legally purchased with my own money, for it’s intended purpose.

Republican and Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle is siding with “Big Business”, both of whom believe they know what is best for my family .

Republican and Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle, believes it’s the government’s job to stop me from using my own money to better the life of my family.

And you think she’s conservative?