Politics is a game of intentional misdirection and we must be mindful of the disaster and danger of the new Senate Bill (SB-57) that was just submitted that will be touted as the Autism Insurance Bill or the ABA Therapy Bill. In short… it’s crap. I’ll explain why below.
If you click on this link above, I’ve highlighted the Bill so you can see who the men are behind the curtain. First, it is NOT an insurance mandate and would not impact Blue Cross in any way. Second, the Bill simply takes our tax money out of the Education Trust Fund (as though this is a smart idea) and gives it to the Alabama Department of Mental Health to create policies and regulations for licensed Physicians and licensed Psychologists to provide ABA “Interventions”.
What is an ABA “Intervention” and this opens the door for all sorts of flexible billing codes and creative thinking for Physicians and Psychologist to “tap” into that $3,000,000 being taken out of the Education Trust Fund. How many Physicians do you know that are qualified to provide ABA Therapy? I know zero. How many Psychologists have an expertise in providing ABA Therapy? I know very few. But, the Bill doesn’t say “therapy” but “interventions” and this is where the devil meets those details. It’s a sham bill meant to misdirect and take attention off of making Blue Cross change and having our Medicaid agency start covering it as they were supposed to do back in 2014.
Mental Health, in Alabama, is in NO POSITION to service Autism as it is not a mental health issue but a neurological issue. They would need to understand Autism prior to ever getting my support that they should have anything to do with it. I’ve been involved in far too many cases where Mental Health has royally flubbed everything up and been more of an impediment that a solution.
But, let’s break those numbers down and just assume that Mental Health would not gobble up a portion of the Education Trust Fund $3,000,000 that this Bill would give them in administrative costs (though the Bill allows them to create rules, policies, and provide leadership to “aggressively” create a unified approach… those mental health people working on this require a paycheck too). As I said, let’s pretend Mental Health wouldn’t siphon away some of that stolen education money for themselves and it was available for our kids (oops… not all of our kids because this Bill caps who could receive “intervention” to age 9… the magic age where our Autistic children stop having Autism).
$3,000,000 for up to $40,000 of “intervention” per child (capped at age 9) would break down to 75 lucky kids across the entire state of Alabama that would get ABA “intervention” from professionals that may have no idea how to actually give ethical and appropriate ABA Therapy through September of 2018.
There is another requirement to have the State Department of Education to adopt policies to “refer” children that have a primary diagnosis of Autism to this Mental Health ABA “intervention” program. What I foresee happening is schools “referring” children to the Mental Health program referenced in this Bill and telling the parent that this absolves the IEP team from including these services within the child’s education program. Too many parents would unfortunately believe this false excuse.
I know of a local Behavior Analyst (BCBA) who has an expertise in delivering ABA therapy and services to children in Alabama. This company does a ton of school consulting/training work. The owner recently developed a new school classroom training model where the BCBA would train the teaching staff (including paraprofessionals) to provide ABA therapy and services in a competent way under the direction of the BCBA for $35,000 for, up to, 8 students with ASD and/or Developmental Delays in one school year (basically a year) and the maintenance cost would drop significantly for the next three years to keep the staff up to speed and each child’s goals and data updated.
Under that idea, the schools could keep their 3,000,000 in the Education Trust Fund and invest in their teaching staff and this $3,000,000 could impact 85 self-contained classrooms with 8 kids per class for a total of 680 ASD/DD students throughout Alabama. A better deal than what this Bill proposes above.
The State of Alabama and the taxpayers are already absorbing the costs of ABA services through our public schools. It is the dirty little secret that nobody in government or in the lobbying world is talking about, know about or acknowledging. This is being done through the special education system and is is financially unsustainable and is becoming a tremendous burden. Private Insurance and Medicaid must step up and carry some of the burden they’ve shifted (knowingly or unknowingly) onto the backs of our public schools.
The political world is changing rapidly and the people are getting tired of our votes being diluted and mooted out by various lobbying groups. Our elected officials must choose this day whom you will serve… the people or the money. You can’t serve both for for either you will hate the one, and love the other; or else you will hold to the one, and despise the other. You can’t serve two sides. We kindly ask that you choose and stop pretending so we can see you all plainly.
With all due respect, Senator Allen, we’d appreciate it if you would please withdraw SB57 and allow a real Autism Insurance Bill to be submitted by Autism Speaks that has no age caps. We’d love to have Commissioner Jim Perdue continue to work with the Autism community on a better and inclusive solution to a burden that can’t be carried by the taxpayers alone and must include private insurance.
#Alltismmatters @SenGeraldAllen @jim_perdue