Mar 29, 2012

Autism and the Affordable Care Act

Yesterday the Supreme Court wrapped up arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. The nation awaits the court's decision, likely to be handed down in June. The stakes are high for everyone, but especially for the many families whose children are disabled. These families have already benefited from the law's requirement that insurance companies may not deny health coverage to a child based on the child's "pre-existing condition."  Obviously, striking down the Affordable Care Act would pull the financial rug out from under these families.
Ironically, today the Centers for Disease Control released its latest statistics on autism. The findings: The incidence of autism is now one in 88 children -  TWICE the 2002 estimate. More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined. This sobering statistic follows the recent release of a University of Pennsylvania study showing that the typical mother of an autistic child earns 35% less than the mother of a child with any other kind of disability, and 56% less than one whose child  has no discernible disabilities.  The report attributes the gap to the fragmentation of support services for children with autism, requiring parents to not only provide direct care to the child, but to spend enormous amount of time and energy that must be spent navigating medical, educational and other bureaucracies.

One bright spot for Florida families who do not have private health insurance: This week the U.S. District Court ruled that Medicaid must provide behavioral therapy for children with autism. The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration had argued that it was not obliged to cover this service because it is an experimental therapy. Commercial insurance carriers are already required to pay for this type of therapy.  

Of course, specialized and sophisticated estate planning is required for children with significant disabilities. This ensures that the financial resources and proper legal framework  are there for the child now, and into the future.  A Special Needs Trust should be the legal linchpin of your planning. Find out more about Special Needs Trusts.

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