Thursday, April 4th, 2013
As health care costs–and diagnoses of autism spectrum disorders (ASD)–rise, families find themselves faced with mounting costs and not much help as they would like. More from ABC News about how advocates are lobbying states to mandate that insurance companies cover autism therapies and other costs:
Thirty-two states have required state-regulated health insurance plans to cover autism, according to Autism Speaks, an organization that advocates for families.
Autism spectrum disorders are developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Treatments include behavioral, occupational and speech therapy, and experts say early intervention is critical.
Bills to mandate coverage for care are moving along with success in Hawaii, Minnesota and Nebraska, but Autism Speaks is pushing for a law in all 50 states and calling on Congress to mandate all companies not under state jurisdiction to authorize care.
Many companies who self-insure, like Microsoft and Oracle, have already voluntarily done so, according to Autism Speaks spokesman Rick Remington.
“We are calling on the president for a national plan for autism,” he said. “Prevalence is on the rise, and we are calling out the government to say enough is enough.”
Matt Bengtzen, who works as a manager in local government in Salt Lake City, has two sons with autism, aged 13 and 10.
“The diagnosis was a struggle for us because it was not covered by insurance,” he said. “And I have very good insurance.”
“We actually have been pretty fortunate, because our children are on the more functional side of the autism spectrum,” said Bengtzen, 37. “It’s been difficult, but not devastating.”
Still, the family has spent at least $10,000 out of pocket on each child so far.
Image: Health care costs, via Shutterstock
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Friday, January 11th, 2013
A new analysis by the Institute of Medicine of global health care costs and outcomes has revealed the troubling statistic that the infant mortality rate in the U.S. is more than double the rates in Japan, Sweden, and some other developed countries. America lags behind 16 other countries, despite the fact that infant mortality rates have been steadily dropping over the last decade. From The Washington Post:
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“Although U.S. infant mortality declined by 20 percent between 1990 and 2010,” the report notes, “other high-income countries experienced much steeper declines and halved their infant mortality rates over those two decades.”
As to what explains the high infant mortality rate, the researchers aren’t quite sure. They say it is not explained by ethnic diversity in the United States. While U.S. minorities do tend to have a higher infant mortality rate, non-Hispanic whites in the United States also have worse outcomes than those in peer nations.
Image: Earth, via Shutterstock
Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
After a hard-won fight in numerous battleground states, incumbent candidate Barack Obama defeated former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in yesterday’s presidential election. How will Obama’s second term affect families? For one thing, the President’s re-election eliminates the possibility of a full repeal of his healthcare reform law, Reuters reports.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was passed in 2010 and upheld by the Supreme Court in June 2012, aims to offer benefits to 30 million uninsured Americans by 2014. Under the ACA, states will participate in insurance exchange programs, and families will have access to immunizations, pre- and post-natal care such as folic acid supplements, and preventive screenings such as mammograms without co-pays or out-of-pocket costs. The controversial reform is still facing approximately two dozen lawsuits, many of which seek to overturn a mandate requiring church-affiliated institutions to cover the cost of employees’ contraceptives.
Governor Romney vowed to repeal the act if elected. Now, “There’s sort of an immediate acceptance that this law will stay in place in some meaningful way,” explained Chris Jennings, a top healthcare adviser to former Democratic President Bill Clinton. “It’s sort of like a big barrier has been removed.”
To learn more about the Affordable Care Act, read our exclusive interview with Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
Image: Map with stethoscope via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, October 10th, 2012
A growing trend in pediatric care may be in the technology devices teenagers carry with them everywhere they go: doctors are using text messaging and other communication strategies to communicate better with their patients. From The New York Times:
But using social media also raises questions about doctor-patient boundaries, privacy laws and confidentiality. Should doctors “friend” young patients on Facebook? What rules should doctors establish about texting with teenagers: content, hours and expectations of speedy replies? How should doctors take into account the reality that teenagers’ cellphones are often missing in action, only to be found — and pored over — by friends and parents?
For these reasons, many doctors stop short of texting. Because texting is not encrypted and does not comply with privacy laws, “my clinic rules forbid me,” said Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a pediatrician who treats teenagers at the Everett Clinic, which is outside Seattle, and at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
But teenagers follow her on Twitter and her Seattle Mama Doc blog, on which she writes commentary and posts health news and videos.
During visits, she will ask a teenager the safest way to pass along private information. For those on birth control, she’ll say, “Take out your cellphone and put in a daily alarm about when to take your pill. Call it…‘strawberry.’ ”
Dr. Swanson won’t answer individual questions on her blog. “But if they ask a question in my office that I think a lot of teens would like to know about,” she added, “I can put the content on the blog without identifying the patient.”
In New York, Mount Sinai Hospital’s Adolescent Health Center uses a program called Text in the City to send patients tips and reminders about medications and appointments. Patients can also text questions, understanding that answers may not arrive for 24 hours. Dr. Katie Malbon, who writes most of the responses, said she cautions: delete an answer after reading it….
….But many doctors cannot imagine adding social media responsibilities to an already exhausting practice. Dr. [Natasha] Burgert, 36, is a juggernaut: With two children, she has a busy practice, keeps a blog on her group’s Web site, posts Twitter messages, texts her teenage patients and still sticks to an 8-to-5 workday.
She carries a paper notebook to jot reminders, and spends 15 minutes a day sending texts and e-mails. It saves her hours of phone tag with patients.
The teenagers don’t overload her with exchanges, she said. “They understand it is a privilege, that not all physicians will do this. Actually, I have more problems with first-time parents.”
Image: Doctor texting, via Shutterstock
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Monday, October 8th, 2012
A new large-scale study has found that access to free contraceptive pills is part of the explanation for well-documented drops in the rates of both teen pregnancy and abortions. The finding comes just before the Obama administration’s health care law takes effect, including provisions that will offer birth control coverage to women nationwide. The Associated Press has more:
When price wasn’t an issue, women flocked to the most effective contraceptives — the implanted options, which typically cost hundreds of dollars up-front to insert. These women experienced far fewer unintended pregnancies as a result, reported Dr. Jeffrey Peipert of Washington University in St. Louis in a study published Thursday.
The effect on teen pregnancy was striking: There were 6.3 births per 1,000 teenagers in the study. Compare that to a national rate of 34 births per 1,000 teens in 2010.
There also were substantially lower rates of abortion, when compared with women in the metro area and nationally: 4.4 to 7.5 abortions per 1,000 women in the study, compared with 13.4 to 17 abortions per 1,000 women overall in the St. Louis region, Peipert calculated. That’s lower than the national rate, too, which is almost 20 abortions per 1,000 women.
In fact, if the program were expanded, one abortion could be prevented for every 79 to 137 women given a free contraceptive choice, Peipert’s team reported in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
Image: Birth control pills, via Shutterstock
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