Autism, protected discrimination and fiscal irresponsibility in health and welfare

A presentation (see this) at the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) 2014 shows from health insurance records (from USA) that people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have higher rates of some other health issues than do people without ASD.

adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have higher than normal rates of nearly all major medical and psychiatric disorders. Moreover, their increased health problems extended across all age groups – from young adults to senior citizens.

Another report (click here) concludes

Medical comorbidities are much more prevalent and difficult to recognise in patients with autism than in he general population. The failure to identify the comorbidities is due in part to communication impairment and ambiguous symptomatology, but wide-spead under-diagnosis is also the result of commonly held beliefs that aberrant behaviour and symptoms are 'just part of autism'. As a result, these pathologies are often left untreated. All the discussed medical comorbidities and consecutive pathological processes can negatively impact behaviour, socialisation, communication, cognitive function and sensory processing of individuals with autism. It is also becoming increasingly clear that the medical abnormalities that underlie autism are not stagnant or transient, but tend to be chronic and in many cases, if left unrecognised and untreated, progressive. Accurate diagnosis and treatment often results in improved level of functioning and decreased severity of symptoms. Recognition that problem behaviours might indicate an underlying medical condition will facilitate diagnosis and treatment and ultimately improve the quality of life for many individuals with autism. As well, correctly identifying and addressing medical comorbidities in autism will help reduce the immense emotional, physical and financial burden on families and carers and is fiscally responsible to the wider society.

Health practices in Australia need to recognise that they are failing people with ASD badly, especially in relation to mental health. There exists wide-spread and bizarre belief that anxiety and/or depression in a person with ASD are just part of their ASD ... belief that comorbidities are inevitable and untreatable constitutes prejudice and discrimination. And people with ASD particularly need alternatives to (and protection from) mental health services (or professionals) in Australia that refuse to treat people with ASD.

Australia already has by far the greatest poverty of people with a disability in the whole OECD. Evidence clearly shows people with ASD fare far worse than people with a disability generally so people with ASD in Australia are extremely likely to experience poverty.

The Government introduced a Medicare co-payment in its 2014 Budget for primary health care. This co-payment impacts much more on people with higher risk of health problems, such as families affected by ASD as is shown above. The co-payment is designed as a barrier to health care and most disadvantages people in poverty.

The 2014 Australian Budget attacks people with a disability who depend on a disability support pension (they depend on the pension because employers do not offer jobs for people with a disability, especially people with ASD; their dependence on the pension is neither their fault nor their choice). Changes in the Budget demand the impossible of people with ASD (see A4's letter to the Ministers).

People with ASD already have higher than normal mental illness and suicide rates. By increasing stress on people with ASD, the federal Government through unbalanced measures in its latest Budget risks increasing mental illness and suicide disproportionately among people with ASD. The potential for loss of life may be higher than occurred through the Government's Pink Batts scheme. This is disability discrimination ... that is illegal under international law but is protected action of Government in the Australian legal system. But the bigger sin, as far as Government in Australia is concerned, is that its policy and practice is fiscally irresponsible.