October 24, 2008
CNN--Carol and Rick Nunez (noon-yez) want what's best for their children.
But it hasn't been easy, especially since their youngest son, Ethan, has autism.
"It's been extremely expensive...Between ABA therapy, the accommodations we had to make to the house...The special material we have to give him, it just adds up," said Carol Nunez, Ethan's mom.
Since Ethan was diagnosed two years ago, the Nunez family has been faced with mounds of bills. Medications, schooling, special therapy....the cost on an average month can run over $6,000.
And their insurance covers almost none of it. But that could soon change in Virginia.
A bill being considered by the state's general assembly would require insurance companies to cover medical costs to treat autism.
"I think people realize that this is a medical ailment that needs to be treated...And the consequences of it going untreated, hurt these children a great deal," said David Poisson of the Virginia House of Delegates.
Traveling to Richmond, Ethan, his parents and other families with autistic children shared their personal stories with the assembly.
"You guys have been seeing..How he's been behaving throughout this hearing..I wanted you to see him in person...Because this is about him...Not about us," said Nunez.
States from Pennsylvania to South Carolina have pushed for mandates like the one in Virginia.
Virginia's bill would put a cap of $36,000 per child. But the insurance industry warns these mandates could lead to higher rates.
"We oppose the idea of mandates in general because we think in the end what happens is that health care is less affordable and less accessible when mandates are imposed," said Susan Pisano with America's Health Insurance Plans.
For now it's a wait and see in Virginia.
The general assembly doesn't convene until January. Till then, bills for the Nunez family and others will continue to pile up.
Families with autistic children in Southwest Georgia are dealing with the same hardships.
If you are a parent of an autistic child and want to try to get legislation passed in Georgia, call (229) 883-6288 or go to www.sowegaautism.com.