Proposed bill would help pay for autism treatment - WKRN News 2

Proposed bill would help pay for autism treatment

Posted: Updated: Feb 15, 2013 06:22 PM
Jennifer Kates 12-year-old son underwent thousands of dollars of treatment for autism. Jennifer Kates 12-year-old son underwent thousands of dollars of treatment for autism.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -

Autism is a complicated disorder affecting one in 88-kids, but its treatments are often not covered by health insurance.

Families can find themselves facing a mountain of debt to care for autistic kids.

A bill filed Thursday on Tennessee's Capitol Hill aims to change that by taking on insurance companies.

Sponsor Senator Jim Tracy acknowledges it will be a "tough fight" to make it happen.

"If we can get the insurance companies to cover the treatment, these children have the opportunity to grow into productive adults, taxpaying citizens," Sen. Tracy told Nashville's News 2 Friday afternoon. "Thirty two other states have done this, or something similar to it."

Jennifer Kates knows the issue well as the mother of a 12-year-old of an autistic child named Harper who now is in 6th grade.

"He was not using language functionally; he was not making good eye contact, not socializing with his peers," she said, adding, "Now he is fairly high functioning because of the early interventions and the therapies when he was younger."

While talking with Nashville's News 2 Friday, the college English teacher at Middle Tennessee State in Murfreesboro proudly wore a pin as a member of Autism Speaks, a group urging insurance companies to cover the therapies that have made a difference in her son's life.

The functionality of her son due to therapy came with a heavy cost for Kates and her husband who also have two other boys.

"We had to really struggle, save and sacrifice for the therapies we were able to access for him," added Kates.

That figure turned out to be around $40,000 dollars for the Kates' family out of their own pocket.

She says the bill being proposed would have covered much, if not all of that therapy, not only for her, but tens of thousands of other Tennessee families with autistic children.

"It would make an enormous difference, if we had this bill, when he was two, we would not have been $40,000 in debt," said Kates.

Senator Tracy said the measure is likely to be brought up for its first committee vote in two to three weeks.

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