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Georgia lawmakers consider disability reforms

Georgia lawmakers recently scheduled a hearing on a law that would require health insurance providers to include autism treatments in their coverage plans.

Under state law, Georgia insurance plans are not required to cover autism treatments. In fact, 17 other American states have similar policies. That gap leaves some parents struggling to care for their autistic children. In particular, therapies like applied behavioral analysis can be quite costly. Under that treatment method, a therapist encourages certain behaviors in an autistic child by breaking down the responses into steps.

Although some low-income households might qualify for Supplemental Security Income assistance, the amount of financial benefits might be required for necessities, with not enough left over for expensive treatments. Yet denying autistic children therapies now might create systemic strain down the road. Eligibility for Social Security disability insurance benefits depends on several factors, one of which is work history: A disabled worker typically must have paid into the system to be eligible to withdraw SSDI benefits. In the case of autistic children that never received needed treatments, it's uncertain whether they will be able to enter the workforce.

Even for autistic individuals who were able to enter the workforce, there is no guarantee that they will have the tools to remain there. Given the fast pace of technological change, autistic workers might be more at risk of being unable to contribute to the workforce due to their disability. When that happens, such autistic individuals will likely turn to SSI financial assistance, a program that does not nave a work history requirement.

Until state lawmakers pass reforms, families of autistic individuals might benefit from a consultation with a Social Security disability benefits attorney. An attorney will know the options currently available to autistic individuals, as well as the best strategies for obtaining assistance.

Source: gainesvilletimes.com, "Ga. parents of autistic children fight for new law," Sarah Mueller, March 9, 2013

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