I received a call from a woman yesterday wanting to know the process of turning over custody of her son to her parents. Typically when I get such inquiries it’s because a mother is entering the military or an inpatient substance abuse facility. This mother wasn’t. Instead the rationale for her request was that her parents’ health insurance coverage was better than her husband’s (and her husband works for a well-paying local company) and their son was incurring thousands of dollars a month in unreimbursed medical treatment for his autism. I have represented parents of autistic children before and the current protocol of aggressive early treatment–hours of weekly play therapy along with physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy–can achieve remarkable results, allowing these children to be mainstreamed by kindergarten. However the cost of this therapy is more than many South Carolina families earn and insurance policies cover differing amounts of these costs.
In most Western democracies the populace considers this type of extraordinary medical care for children to be a social responsibility rather than an individual responsibility. Despite this, these countries manage to provide equal or better health care results by most measures–infant mortality; life expectancy; chronic disease rates–at a lower cost. In Canada or Western Europe this family wouldn’t be left with the awful choice between relinquishing custody of their child or forgoing their son’s medical care.
I don’t think anyone, even Barack Obama, likes every aspect of the recently-passed health care legislation. But I would love to see the vocal critics of Obamacare currently running for political office in South Carolina explain to this woman what actions they would expect her to take to treat her son’s illness and preserve her family if they get their wish and repeal the health care legislation. I would further love to see them explain how the choice our political system has left this mother fits into their vision of “family values.”