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Autism healthcare costlier than diabetes

June 14, 2012 at 12:53 AM

COLUMBIA, Mo., June 14 (UPI) -- Children with autism spectrum disorders have higher costs for parents and insurance providers than children with diabetes, U.S. researchers say.

Nancy Cheak-Zamora, assistant professor of health sciences in the University of Missouri's School of Health Professions, compared costs and types of services for children with autism spectrum disorders to costs and services for children with other conditions like asthma or diabetes.

The study, published in Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, found children with autism spectrum disorders paid more for healthcare and used more services, yet had less access to specialized care, than children with other conditions, the study said.

"Across the board, children with autism spectrum disorders used more healthcare services, including in-patient stays in the hospital and required more medications," Cheak-Zamora said in a statement. "Children with autism spectrum disorders need coordinated healthcare, better access to services and more affordable care. Insurance companies should develop policies that will cover the treatments children with autism spectrum disorders need."

Children with autism spectrum disorders are prone to other conditions -- such as seizures, sleep disturbances and gastrointestinal problems -- that can cause them to use health services more frequently, Cheak-Zamora said.

"Healthcare providers should address all these needs by providing care using the medical home model: Primary care that is comprehensive, coordinated and family-centered," Cheak-Zamora said.

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