“We found that families who live in states that have passed parity legislation spent considerably less for their children with autism than families living in states without such legislation,” Parish says.
The study examined data from the National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs, which includes a group of more than 2,000 children with autism living across the United States.
Data revealed that more than one-third of the families reported spending more than three percent of their gross annual incomes on services for their children with autism.
“Families raising children with autism incur exceptionally high out-of-pocket costs. These costs pay for things that insurance doesn't fully cover, like therapies and behavior management interventions,” says Parish. “These services are often critically important to the well-being and development of children with autism.”
Where families live really matters, Parish concluded. Families living in states that had enacted so-called parity legislation had much lower financial burden than families who lived in states without such legislative protections.
Data found that 60 percent of families in Massachusetts, Missouri, and Utah had out-of-pocket in excess of $500 annually. By comparison, 27 percent of Maine families spent above $500 annually. At the time the survey was collected, in 2005, Massachusetts, Missouri and Utah did not have parity legislation, but Maine did. Furthermore, these findings were robust. Even after controlling for a host of characteristics including severity of the child's impairment, family income, and state wealth, families' financial burden was much less if they lived in states that had passed parity legislation.