Shayan’s Law is named for a Kirkland boy whose family went broke trying to pay for his treatment, only to watch his unmet needs worsen until public agencies finally stepped in.
The prime sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Ed Murray, knows that most families cannot afford to pay for intensive behavior intervention, which can cost $50,000 a year.
The need for Shayan’s Law is urgent. Autism treatment is much more effective if started at an early age – especially by age 3 – than after neurological systems have matured. The longer that Washington delays insurance reform, the dimmer the future becomes for thousands of afflicted children.
In recent years Washington and the nation have seen a dramatic increase in autism rates. Three to four times more boys than girls are affected. Meanwhile, families are being hit by a sour economy at a time when their children need services the most.
Loss of jobs, health care, and vital community support all compound the problem of minimal or non-existent insurance coverage. Financial challenges increase the stress of caring for an autistic child, adding to an already high divorce rate.
Microsoft, the pioneer in providing autism insurance benefits for its employees, has shown that it can be done. In other states, autism insurance reform has added only 44 to 83 cents per month to premiums.
When Shayan’s Law was heard recently by the Senate Health and Long-term Care Committee, Chairwoman Karen Keiser, D-Kent, acknowledged that there has been no groundswell of opposition from the insurance consumers of this state in the three years since Washington began considering autism parity.
The minimal costs to insurance policyholders pale in comparison to the enormous public costs of neglecting the needs of autistic children. Caring for one untreated person with autism can cost $3.2 million over a lifetime.
See Shayan's Law Facebook page.