Repeal and Replace – the cri de cœur of the Republican Party for seven years would devastate the autistic, and their parents. It would have harmed autistic citizens already covered by insurance policies and prevented families from adding autistic children. It would also have ended new Medicaid claims and phased out Medicaid coverage.

Recently, a House of Representatives bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act was defeated when a group of ultraconservative Republicans in the Freedom Caucus, and several moderate Republicans refused to vote for the bill. This temporarily has prevented the law from being enacted, despite support from the White House.

Healthcare Reform and Autism

The bill, as it was written, even in its final version, appears to have removed the preexisting conditions clause of the ACA, as well as protections for mental health. As if that double whammy wasn’t enough, it also took away special protections important to cover autism care.

In 2009 and 2010, during the crafting of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the House held 79 hearings over the course of a year, heard from 181 witnesses and accepted 121 amendments. The Senate adopted the Affordable Care Act only after approximately 100 hearings, roundtables, walkthroughs and other meetings, and after 25 consecutive days in continuous session debating the bill. The current House leadership hoped to get the repeal and replacement legislation through the House in three weeks and failed.

No matter what one’s politics may be, or one’s feelings about the ACA, the proposed changes would have a damaging impact on autism. Testing would have been minimized, if not eliminated. If a child needed an MRI or specialized testing, or speech pathology, for example, those tests would not be available. In fact, most mental health services and testing, covered under ACA would be eradicated entirely. Medications too, would be drastically reduced or eliminated.

As if these things aren’t bad enough, the repeal and replace legislation sought by the White House and House leadership would have made autism a pre-existing condition and thus not covered under new policies. Once that provision was not mandatory, private insurers would be free to drop coverage for those on the spectrum because autism is, by definition, pre-existing. Even if a family discovers autism, insurers under the revised law, would not have to cover it because at the time of discovery, autism would have existed in the child, teen or adult.

While the initial attempt to repeal and replace failed, there is renewed effort to come up with another replacement bill. It would likely be far better, easier and positive to repair the ACA, but that does not seem to be the focus of the majority party.

For autism, along with other organic conditions, such as Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, or Epilepsy, we must ensure that the medical practitioners are making the right choices, doing the right tests, making the best recommendations. Anything less is a harmful, dangerous thing we cannot abide.

Therefore, we urge you to write your Congressional representatives in both the House and Senate, and urge Repair, Not Repeal!. Protecting the civil rights, needs and resources for autism is a daily challenge. It’s difficult for parents and caregivers, and for our organization. Join us, and help us in the fight.