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Friday, February 3, 2017

Autism, Insurance, and Rural America

Once parents get past all the red tape, they often find that providers are scarce. Rural states may be especially short on behavior analysts, who tend to prefer to work in large metropolitan areas that have greater educational and technological resources.  If psychiatric help is necessary, it may be hard to get. There is a shortage of child psychiatrists, and insurers are of little help in finding them.
In a larger town, they might have been able to find a counselor trained in applied behavioral analysis (ABA), the intensive therapy that is usually recommended for children with severe behavior problems. But their community of 2,500 people has no qualified ABA providers—either state-funded or private—and they live hours away from the nearest one.
Many families in other parts of rural America face similar struggles, says Alacia Stainbrook, a behavior analyst and coordinator of an early intervention program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. “The farther you are from a major metropolitan city, the less likely you are to find a behavioral analyst,” she says. “It’s not feasible to drive two hours for a 30-minute therapy session and then back home again.”
In Iowa, more than 80 percent of the ABA providers operate in cities and suburbs—but about half of the state’s population, including Izzy and many of the 8,000 other children with autism, reside in rural areas like Madrid.
Emily Boster reports at KIMT-TV:
Christina Maulsby was in Des Moines Wednesday pushing for a bill that would provide better insurance coverage for her kids. Maulsby has two boys who are autistic. Currently her boys are seeing a behavioral therapist, but when they reach age nine, her insurance will no longer cover those sessions. The new bill would extend coverage until they are 19. Maulsby says seeing the bill progress is a relief.