By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
As I stood along the wall in room 727, listening to the Senate’s finance committee kick around the idea of mandating insurance for Autism Therapy, it struck me that the proponents of this bill were going about it all wrong.
For hours upon hours, parents and grandparents, friends, neighbors and the regular ol’ decent human beings have tried to pitch this bill – HB284 – by leaning heavy on the compassion and the humanity of it.
For weeks now, they’ve explained the heavy burden that this puts on these good, hard-working families. They’ve attempted to relay the joy parents feel when a child shut out of the world begins to open up, speak to them and interact with others. They’ve tried to convey the frustration they feel when their money runs out and their children stop advancing, even as kids in 45 other states continue forward.
Hell, they’ve even tried to explain the long-term cost savings, since applied Behavioral Therapy – treatment that is the standard now for autism care in most cases – would save the state $3 million per person by eliminating costly care through special education and other programs.
There are 50,000 families dealing with Autism today in Alabama. For an increased cost of $4 per month – maximum – on our insurance premiums, we could save about $150 billion by treating only those in Alabama who currently have Autism.
But that didn’t matter either.
We were still greeted by ignorant amendments proposing to exclude Medicaid – which is the same as denying therapy to poor children – and cutting off coverage when an Autistic child achieves some arbitrary minimum benchmark. Both of those were proposed by finance chairman Trip Pittman, who I assume took a break from burning ants with a magnifying glass to write them.
Pittman’s beef with the bill, which other less vocal Legislators share, is that it’s a “mandate” to business. And businesses don’t like mandates. They might decide not to move here if we keep tossing out mandates.
There was a sob story told by Sen. Paul Sanford – the only Senator besides Pittman to vote against the bill – of businesses in his district that couldn’t add new employees because the Obamacare mandates would kick in if they did. Of course, no one ruined the sob story by pointing out that that same Obamacare is keeping those companies’ employees healthy and working instead of twisting in the wind because their money-grubbing employers couldn’t cut into the bottom line to offer health care.
But such stories, and the obvious care and concern that these senators have for the helpless businesses of the State gave me an idea.
Maybe we should be a tad more clear about how decisions like not offering autism therapy coverage affect the businesses these guys love so dearly.
So, heads up, companies like Aerojet-Rocketdyne and Leonardo DRS, which are both on the verge of opening facilities in Alabama, this is what you’re in for:
Your employees, including your executives will pay thousands of dollars annually for Autism Therapy that is fully covered across the state lines in Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana.
Some of your best and brightest executives, and any of your employees who have other employment options, will either refuse to work here or they’ll leave your company altogether, because why would they subject their families to poor health care, a poor education system and subpar services?
Those employees who do chose to work in this state will be sicker and miss more days of work, because even if they have the option of insurance coverage, they lack access to nearby care. That’s because we refused to expand Medicaid or develop a viable alternative, so many rural hospitals and clinics closed down, and our low rates of reimbursement drove doctors out of the State.
And while all of that sounds bad, you’ll really hardly notice it, because you’ll be too consumed watching the utter clown show that is our State Legislature.
A place so overrun with idiocy that inside its walls, a man who would remove vital Autism Therapy from poor children simply because they’re poor, has risen to such power that he can singlehandedly prevent a popular and necessary piece of Legislation from even receiving a proper vote. Even after the bill passed his committee with overwhelming support.
Welcome to Alabama.