I just read this piece in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and it has me all fired up on a Tuesday, y’all!
Let’s jump right on in, shall we?
Longtime readers know that my sister and I are co-guardians of our older brother. Our brother is autistic and aphasic. He does not speak in sentences…has a vocabulary of less than 100 words…but can communicate better through sign language.
I grew up in a house with too much going on for our parents to bother shielding us from reality.
I knew that my brother’s behavior and speech therapy cost a lot of money. My brother is 41 now and when he was a child the options were far more limited than they are now, but my parents worked tirelessly to provide him access to whatever was available.
And I knew it…felt it…saw in on my father’s face when he sat down to do the bills or went to work at a job that he found little fulfillment in just because it paid him a high salary.
Our entire family worked as a team when it came to speech therapy and behavior therapy. And we shared in my brother’s triumphs and setbacks.
My brother worked his ass off. He went to school year ‘round and then came home to a never-ending series of exercises. Every event, every meal, every interaction was laced with training or skill building or corrections. Trust that I doubt I could have been as strong as he was or half as successful.
We all enjoy the benefits of my brother’s efforts. He is a fantabulous man who is eager to communicate and share his opinions. We’ve found a system and honor his use of sign language rather than push for more verbal communication.
When autism insurance reform gained momentum in Missouri, I supported the hell out of it even though it would not apply to my brother.
I know, better than most, just how expensive education and therapy can be…and just how amazing the outcomes can be when families have access.
Autism insurance reform was needed because insurance companies refused to cover needed treatments and families who had paid premiums for years were getting hustled on the back end when they needed services.
When autism insurance reform passed I cheered…for the families and children it will benefit and in honor of my parents who would have been all over that fight.
Now it looks like some institutions that like to talk the talk of caring for children with developmental disabilities and/or communication challenges are being outed for not walking the walk when it comes to providing coverage for the services that actually demonstrate caring for children with developmental disabilities and/or communication disorders.
Insurance by Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, which comes from Christian Brothers Services (a nonprofit Catholic organization), does not offer coverage for autism treatment services.
And they don’t have to.
Because they are…wait for it…a church plan.
Yep…they are a church-based whatever that is a non-profit and thus exempt.
As detailed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch piece, when a local St. Louis family tried to get autism treatment services covered they were denied. The child in question has Downs Syndrome and is autistic. The mother was directed to read her insurance certificate, which read…
"The Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust is a 'church plan' as designated by the Internal Revenue Service and Department of Labor. It is not a group insurance contract within the meaning of state group insurance laws. Therefore, the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust is not subject to the mandated benefit requirements imposed by state group insurance laws."
Pause…allow that bullshit to marinate…continue.
Now you know and I know that you know that I know that clause is one hell of a get out of providing all manner of services shit.
Usually, Catholic services make the news for not providing reproductive health care like emergency contraception to rape survivors or tubal ligation or abortion care to save a woman’s life or…well, you get the picture.
With this latest public display of callous disregard, they are showing their cards a bit.
And the smell of hypocrisy is ripe as hell.
Despite the rhetoric from the right that claims otherwise, one of the reasons many families fear having a child with developmental disabilities is because they don’t think they will be able to afford the care that child would need. Nothing can be more gut wrenching than knowing a child needs something…and, damn it, we are talking about “need” here not want…knowing there is a need that you simply cannot meet.
I’ve seen that look…felt that fear…known that something was going to have to give so something needed could get done. And my family was blessed to be in a position to even consider most of the services my brother had.
But far be it for Missourians to expect a religious institution that benefits from non-profit status under the guise of providing care to the community to actually provide care to the community.
That’d be too much like right.
In this as in so many things, the wrong is never limited to reproductive healthcare…it may start there or get media attention there, but the theme of public rhetoric and private rancidity never ends there.
Mayhap the family featured in the article will find relief in the federal healthcare insurance reform they probably opposed for fear that it would provide coverage for abortion services that it can’t because of Hyde?