Starting Monday, Pennsylvania families applying for autism benefits will be required to kick-in co-payments that could total hundreds of dollars in additional medical bills.
While autism advocates disparage the decision, the state says the new system only asks people to pay their fair share.
Up to this point, Pennsylvania children with intellectual and physical impairments could receive treatments entirely at the cost of taxpayers, no matter how much money their parents make.
Starting Monday, the state will begin asking families who make more than $42,000 to pay up to 5 percent of their income in co-payments.
While this will save the state $9.4 million a year, it will mean some families can expect to see their medical bills jump hundreds dollars a month.
Patti Erickson is the President of Philadelphia Chapter of Autism Society of America. She says this will make it hard for families to keep children in the treatments they need, and questions if the state will save money in the long-term.
“If they do make some money, are they going just to be paying that out ten-fold in the future because of the problems that this will create?” said Erickson. “These children are going to grow up and be adults, so if you limit their therapy now, they’re not going to be as successful as adults and they’re going to be more of a burden on society.”
Anne Bale, spokeswoman for the state’s department of public welfare, says that argument does not stand up.
“I don’t think that this will keep people from receiving services,” said Bale. “The services are still there and the co-pays are based on a person’s ability to pay, so we don’t see that anybody will be dropping out of services.”
Of the 48,000 kids currently receiving state-sponsored treatment in Pennsylvania, Bale says one in four have parents making more than $100,000. Even with the new co-pays, she says the state has one of the most generous benefits systems in the nation.