JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. - Families in Johnson County are going into debt trying to take care of their children with autism. Now, they're pushing state lawmakers to act.
Kansas is one of 14 states that doesn't require insurance companies to pay for autism treatment. It's treatment that could help someone like 10-year-old Claire Judah of Gardner, Kan., who may never be able to take care of herself.
"You wake up in the morning knowing that your child in going to need your care 24 hours a day," Claire's mother Beatrice Judah said.
Beatrice is on the verge of quitting her job to take care of Claire and her three other children with autism. Claire, however, has the most severe symptoms.
"We don't go out as a family to restaurants. We've tried that and there has been explosions," Claire's father Doug Judah said.
"My daughter needs a lot of help being fed. She still hasn't learned how to go to the bathroom and that would've been a great therapy to have with her growing up," Beatrice said.
Beatrice works part-time and she and her husband can't afford to pay for treatment for their kids.
"I honestly can tell you that we have not looked into any therapies because from what we've been hearing from friends having such an expense. We don't even try," she said.
According to Mike Wasmer with Autism Speaks, the leading organizing for autism advocacy, therapy can cost families $40,000 to $60,000 per year. Unlike Missouri, the state of Kansas doesn't require insurance companies to cover the costs of autism treatment for all families.
"We're hoping that Kansas gets on board with insurance reform because there are so many families like ours who are struggling financially and emotionally," Beatrice said.
Now that the state legislature is back in session, Beatrice and Doug are like many parents in Johnson County pushing legislators to pass a law requiring autism insurance coverage for all families.
Families have been advocating for the Autism Reform Bill for the last six years. In 2012, the bill didn't make it through the Senate; but families are hopeful the bill will have enough support to pass in 2014.
For Beatrice and her family, she hopes change won't come too late.
"I feel very bad. I want to provide them with everything in life especially recovery and therapy but our family is not in a place to do that right now."