India does not have an official count of the number of people with autism in the country. The government schemes for them are also few. One thing that worries the parent of autistic children the most is the absence of good insurance covers.
With no data on the number of ASD-affected kids in India, the numbers from the United States of America’s Centre for Disease Control, 1 in 50 kids, is taken as the basis of welfare schemes. According to Delhi-based research firm INCLEN Trust International, 475 of 3,964 children between the ages of 2 and 9 years had at least one Neurodevelopmental Disorder (NDD). 21.7% of these children have two or more NDDs while 79.6% of children have ASD.
Through the National Trust Act 1999, the government provides Niramaya Health Insurance scheme for people with autism. It is a cover of Rs1 lakh a year for a premium of Rs 250. Under this scheme, each treatment has an upper limit of spending which can be as little as Rs 10,000 for therapy sessions in a year.
Private insurance companies do not even have sufficient cover, with very few insurance schemes catering to the needs of ASD-affected families. Though all insurers are expected to cover autism as per the law, however Star Health Insurance is the only private insurer in the market with an insurance plan specifically for autism. It offers a 20-year-old man fixed insurance of Rs 3 lakh, the maximum the company offers, for an annual premium of Rs 6,284.
Religare Health Insurance Company’s Care Freedom plan clubs autism with several other illnesses. It provides a cover of Rs 3 lakh for a 20-year-old man at a premium of Rs 5,383, and Rs 5 lakh for a premium of Rs 6,236.
Moreover, these plans have limitations. Star Health’s plan, for example, limits the expense on treatment of seizures to Rs 25,000 and those requiring surgery for fractures can spend a maximum of 20% of the insured sum. This plan is that it can only be bought in the child’s name. However, its limits mean it is not very useful for many patients.
Many experts believe that these plans need to be in the form of a family floater with the child as a dependent, and not directly in the name of the child. They suggest going for term plans which are not just cheaper but also provide well for the child in case of the parents’ demise. Moreover, parents can also claim tax deductions on the medical expenses of the children under this plan. They also suggest the parents start investing and saving money at a younger age since they are not only responsible for their own old age but also for providing for their children after them.