Jasper Hood is the son of Quess Hood, a special education teacher from Ripley, Mississippi, who has led the charge for better autism insurance coverage in his state legislature. In this blog, he urges Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Senator Videt Carmichael to finish the job this year in the state Senate, by moving a bill passed 120-0 by the House.
When our son, Jasper, was diagnosed with autism at the age of two and a half, we felt so helpless. When we found out that our insurance did not pay for anything to do with autism, our hope dropped even further and we were drowning in a pool of sadness. My wife and I both teach in Mississippi. We have state insurance.
Mississippi is one of the 16 remaining states that do not require insurance companies to cover the diagnosis or treatment of autism. As we accepted our new realities, we made up our minds to not only make things right for Jasper, but for all families living with autism in Mississippi.
As a special education teacher, I have been around kids with autism, but I did not know how little I knew until Jasper was diagnosed. As it happens, my boss, Karen Churchill, has a brother who is a state representative. As I told her about how our insurance did not pay for anything, she said we should talk to her brother, Representative Steve Massengill. Well, we did. And we got him to drop a bill that would fix it.
Who would not be for this?
I was thinking that this was going to be easy. After all, who would not be for this? Wrong! The first year our bill did not get out of committee. I fell into the pit of despair again.
How could anyone deny children medical treatments they needed to be able to make it in this world? What I found was not lawmakers who were mean, but lawmakers who were unaware of the lack of insurance coverage in Mississippi.
So we regrouped to try again this year and give it everything we’ve got.
We did just that.
This year our bill passed the Mississippi House 120-0. Why it passed like that is the way we approached it. It has been just like coaching a football team. I did not know that all those years coaching football would help me pass legislation, but it turns out the game of football and the game of politics are a lot alike.
Money? No. Teambuilding? Yes!
To get something like this to move in a state you have to have lots of money, or great team building skills. Well, money I have not, but I know all about team building. What is great about Mississippi is that if you talk to a stranger for anytime here, you will either know some of the same folks or you will be kin.
By connecting people together using this approach we made significant headway in the Mississippi House. And then the legislature threw on the brakes.
The fate of our bill now rests in the hands of just one man in the Mississippi Senate who can either be a hero to the families in this state who desperately need this bill to pass or he can make our families wait another year to try again.
It is hard for me to understand why anyone could stand in the way of a bill that would help so many especially since 34 other states have taken measures to end autism insurance discrimination. When I started this crusade, I was doing it for my son. Now I know and believe, I’m fighting the fight of my life for all of those moms and dads who are at the end of the rope wanting to know why the state government would wait another year to create new jobs, save taxpayers money and stall our children out another year on their road to independence.
I want my son to be a taxpayer one day. I don’t want taxpayers to have to take care of him. It is that simple. What makes me cry when I get in bed at night is what will happen to my son when his mother and I are gone if he does not get what he and all kids living with autism in this state should be able to get – access to the medical treatments and therapies they need.
We would not have been able to do all we have been able to do without moms, dads, grandparents and friends all over Mississippi who care about kids like our Jasper. For that I have no words and am so grateful for this overwhelming support. But without the help and guidance of Autism Speaks and Shelley Hendrix, we would be miles behind where we are today.
Please take a moment to contact Lt. Governor Tate Reeves and Senator Videt Carmichael. Ask them to pass HB.542 as it was passed in the House, without amendment, so that Mississippi can become the 35th state to take important steps to end autism insurance discrimination.
Everyone can help by taking action HERE.