To the Editor:

With the repeal of the ACA, many families will lose their only chance at accessing life-changing therapy for their autistic children.

We have a 56-year-old son with Asperger’s autism, and in the 70’s and 80’s, most insurance companies wouldn’t recognize many mental health conditions in their coverage. Autism was an unknown, so we tried to handle it the best we could ourselves by trying to get him schooled. We found this difficult; nobody seemed to know how to handle him and really wanted no part of him. They did everything possible to keep him out of their school, from recommending home tutoring to institutionalize him. Knowing the law was on my side, we finally hired an attorney. Within a couple of weeks, he was in a special school.

The medical expenses we incurred during this time forced us to second mortgage our home and deplete our savings. Psychiatric care and therapy was very expensive and at that time we found it little help. The special education teacher he ended up with was a blessing and my son progressed dramatically with her guidance. She not only had my son in her class, but other children with multiple disabilities and handled them all.

The last decade has brought tremendous advances in understanding and addressing the many physical and mental health conditions with autism. Early intervention programs for infants and toddlers can be a tremendous help for them to reach a higher potential in the future. With proper education and training, many autistic people can go on to enter the workforce and live fairly normal lives.

The repeal of ACA and the proposed cuts to Medicaid not only affect families who are in a specific income brackage; they affect future disability benefits that their children will need as they age out of the education system. These cuts also impact families who have insurance but use Medicaid to fill gaps in coverage for their disabled and chronically ill children.

It’s unbelievable that the House passed AHCA (Trumpcare), a bill that would allow states to opt out of any mandated coverage for those with pre-existing conditions that include everything from autism to pregnancy. This bill also would greatly impact Medicaid funding for disabled individuals. Every medical, disability and autism organization has expressed opposition to this bill and what it would mean to our most vulnerable populations.

Austism Speaks’ latest figurs has 1 in 68 children living within the autism spectrum. Let’s not go back to the 70’s and 80’s. Call your senators and tell them this bill should not go forward: Rob Portman (202-224-3353); Sherrod Brown (202-224-2315). You can go to their respective websites to email them.

— George Riegle