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Micro-Lending Site Offers Treatment Options for Autism, But at What Price?

Reality BaseBy Melissa LafskyAugust 19, 2008 1:48 AM


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ABC News has a report on the Lend4Health blog, which offers a person-to-person lending system for parents who can't afford and/or whose insurance won't cover autism treatments for their children. The concept follows the model of and other individual loan sites. But the idea behind it—loans exclusively for treatments of a particular disorder—is unique among micro-lenders. The system was created by Tori Tuncan, a mother of two who decided to take action after hearing one too many stories about insurers denying coverage for autism therapies. Tuncan acts as the money go-between, reviewing pictures, bios, references, and the treatments desired by potential borrowers, and then doling out micro-loans at her discretion. It's true that this kind of system could be a potential lifesaver for patients who desperately need certain procedures or treatments, but are caught in insurance company red tape and can't come up with the money. But the current setup of one person deciding what treatments are worth funding, and handing out funds accordingly, sets a dangerous precedent. Tuncan is not a doctor and has no medical training. In fact, it's unclear if she has any particular knowledge about the complexities of autism therapies, or the controversies surrounding them. But none of that stops her from seeing that certain types of care receive funding. As ABC writer Lauren Cox points out, the site advocates "bio-medial" treatments, which include the highly unproven and potentially dangerous chelation. Another woman is seeking a big chunk of cash for her son's hyperbaric oxygen chamber therapy—which, while effective for encephalitis, has yet to be proven to treat autism. Not to mention that the costs run in the thousands of dollars per session. Insurance companies leave plenty to be desired as far as updating their policies to cover the latest medical advances, and there's nothing stopping the free market from creating new and innovative ways to fund medical care. But sometimes untested and risky procedures aren't covered because they're just that—untested and risky. Letting the market circumvent that fact could be putting people's health on the line.

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