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Monday, February 6, 2012

Military Kids with Autism

What do the armed forces have to do with health care? The US military health care system is among the world's largest, serving more than 9.2 million people, including active duty personnel and families, retirees and their families, and eligible veterans.  The following item, reposted from Autism Policy and Politics, explains one of the many issues arising from this system.

Jean Winegardner writes at The Washington Times:
Last Tuesday, Scott Campbell stood up during the public comment section of a congressional briefing for H.R. 2288, the Caring for Military Children with Autism Act (CMKAA) and spoke about his lung cancer. Doctors discovered it during his retirement physical, requiring him to stay on active duty for treatment.
That active duty, following 28 years of service, allowed his son, a 13-year-old severely affected by autism, to continue his applied behavior analysis (ABA) treatments and to have them paid for by his military insurance.
"I was glad I got lung cancer," he said, letting the irony of his words seep into the room, "because it meant my son could get treatment."
Campbell was addressing a situation that affects military parents of children with autism across the country. ABA therapy, which is often recommended to to treat autism, is not covered under TRICARE standard, the basic military insurance. Military families must seek coverage under the Extended Health Care Option (ECHO) which is only available after enrollment in the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP).
Once enrolled, coverage caps limit ABA therapy at an average of 11 hours per week, less than the 25-40 hours that is often recommended for young recently diagnosed children. Furthermore, ECHO is not available to retirees, even those forced to retire due to injury or disease.
The Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act would remove ABA treatment from ECHO, placing it under TRICARE Standard as medically necessary, removing the dollar cap on care, as well as making the therapy accessible to all eligible retiree dependents.
A CMKAA website is here.

Autism Speaks has a video clip of the briefing, along with messages from affected moms:

An MSNBC report: