It's Health Care Monday -- and I'm thinking about autism.
Specifically, the end of the "Combating Autism Act."
Five years ago, Congress passed this act, which allocated funds for training professionals to identify and provide services for autistic people and aimed to provide evidence-based interventions and treatments at an early age. The bill cost about $200 million a year. It's set to sunset this year, in September, so Congress has been considering whether to re-authorize the bill in some form or another.
Testifying before a subcommittee, the chairman of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, Dr. Thomas Insel, noted some of the successes of the law:
Dr. Insel was also asked how the IACC has been successful. He pointed to the committee’s achievement in improving coordination between federal agencies as well as between federal agencies and private foundations. He noted the importance of creating specific public-private partnerships around key areas of research interest and community need, citing the Autism Treatment Network (ATN) as an excellent example. The ATN is a partnership between Autism Speaks, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) that creates a comprehensive model of care for children and adolescents with autism. This network helps involve families in research and provides the latest treatments directly to the community.
In addition, he pointed to the importance of public participation in the committee’s activities, creating a public forum for the community’s needs to be heard. ...
To appeal to heartless Republicans who would rather that kids with autism never get treatment and end up being institutionalized, I'll note that it's important economically to fight autism; the annual cost of caring for autistic people is right now about $90 billion dollars. That's estimated to rise to $400,000,000,000 in the next ten years. (Source.) But early intervention of the kind that the Combating Autism Act sought to identify and make universal, can reduce that by ninety percent.
Which means, deficit cutters, that you can save up to $36,000,000,000 simply by reauthorizing this act.
Liberals, combating autism means fighting poverty: 87% of all families with an autistic child end up below the poverty line, as many treatments are not covered by insurance.
Despite the obvious benefits and relatively low cost of this Act, the Senate Committee considering it has postponed any hearings on it until September; since the Act expires on September 30, that means that federal funds may run out if it's not reauthorized.
You can click here to go to the site of that committee. Take a moment to contact them and tell them to get going reauthorizing this bill.