Today, February 10th, 2012, Senate Bill 1568 will be discussed at the Senate Health Care Committee hearing. It may proceed to a workshop, it may be voted out of committee and on to its next legislative step, or it may be rejected outright; the outcome is uncertain.
Some things, however, are certain. It is certain, that between today, and February 10th, 2013, more than 600 children will be diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum. It is certain, that more than 1200 parents will begin an emotional, and financial roller coaster. It is certain, that those 1200 parents, with their 2400 parents, will begin a discussion of who will sacrifice what for their children, and grandchildren. It is certain that those 3600+ people will have to decide who will quit their job to take on the full time task of running from therapist to therapist, and tending to the enormous task of caring for a newly diagnosed child on the Autism Spectrum. It is certain that the person who doesn’t work will stop paying into the insurance system. And it is certain, that the strain on those families will be enormous.
The good news is that IF SB1568 succeeds in 2013, the strain those 3600 plus people will feel will be greatly reduced, and those families, plus thousands more like them, will feel a great weight lifted; the weight of having to become medical practitioners themselves, or fail their children. Trained professionals will, finally, be able to provide a significant service to a community that desperately needs it, fewer of those professionals will see people default on their medical bills, and insurance companies that provide coverage, will see greater enrollment in their plans by members of the autism community.
Another certainty, however, is that if SB1568 does not succeed in the Oregon Senate this year, then nothing will change for at least another year, and Oregon will definitely continue to be the state with the second highest incidence of Autism, and one of the diminishing numbers of states that still has no requirement for insurance companies to pay for treatment. And, for another year, Oregon families will continue to feel the financial strain of paying for treatment out of pocket, or waiting far past the time medical experts say is most effective, relying on the school system to take on what they can.
After that, the certainty ends. Will that relief help to bring the divorce rate for the community down from some 70%? Will improved access medical treatment, paid for by medical insurance companies, help avoid foreclosures and bankruptcies? Will schools begin to see a decline in the number of children needing services for Autism? Will more young adults then emerge from academia and enter productive lives? It’s hard to say, but that is the hope that this bill carries with it, so I am inclined to say Yes.