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Kids with Autism Pay More for Health Care Services Than Others: Study

Update Date: Jun 16, 2012 09:10 PM EDT

 

Photo: Flickr/Lance Neilson
Photo: Flickr/Lance Neilson

A new study claims that autistic children have less access to specialized health care than children with other conditions, such as asthma or diabetes.

 

According to researchers from the University of Missouri-Columbia, the services used by children with autism are also more costly.

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Autism is a complex disability that hinders social interaction and communication skills. Autistic people are also marked by obsessive and repetitive behaviors.

For the study, researchers analyzed earlier studies that calculated the total money spent by families of children with autism spectrum disorders for health care, said the report.

The analyses of the data revealed that autistic children with a risk for other conditions such as seizures and gastrointestinal problems paid more for the care they received when compared to other kids.

"Across the board, children with autism spectrum disorders used more health care services, including in-patient stays in the hospital, and required more medications," study co-author Nancy Cheak-Zamora, assistant professor of health sciences in the university's School of Health Professions, said in a university news release, according to Health Day.

"Children's insurance companies paid more for services, and parents also paid more, with their out-of-pocket costs often exceeding a thousand dollars per year," she added.

Children with autism spectrum disorders need coordinated health care, better access to services and more affordable care, says the study. "Insurance companies should develop policies that will cover the treatments children with autism spectrum disorders need."

The study authors suggest that children with autism should have a "medical home,"a coordinated team care led by a primary care physician.

"In general, having a medical home helps ensure you have quality health care. It examines how well your health care providers are giving you coordinated care in which the family is truly a partner," explained Cheak-Zamora.

"We found that children with autism spectrum disorders have medical homes less often than children with other special health care needs. This is a problem because families without a medical home report experiencing more financial problems and difficulties accessing and utilizing needed medical services," she added.

The report was published in the July-September issue of Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders.

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