The cost of caring for a child with autism differs widely simply depending on where a family lives, new research suggests.
In a study looking at more than 2,000 kids with the developmental disorder, researchers found that state policy — specifically whether or not insurers were required to cover autism therapy — tremendously altered the financial situation for their families.
“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,” said Susan Parish, a professor of disability policy at Brandeis University who led the study.
Parish and her colleagues used data from the National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs to compare the experiences of families residing in states with and without autism insurance requirements.
Of those living in Massachusetts, Missouri and Utah — where there was no coverage requirement when the survey was conducted in 2005 — 60 percent said they spent more than $500 a year on services for their child with autism.
At the same time, in Maine where an insurance mandate was already in place, just 27 percent of families reported spending that much, according to the study published recently in the journal Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
Even when researchers controlled for factors like the severity of the child’s disability and family income, costs continued to be significantly lower if families lived in a state with an insurance requirement, the study found.
Currently, 31 states have laws requiring insurers to cover autism treatment, according to Autism Speaks.