Financial Incentives and Autism Diagnoses: An Ohio Autism Scholarship Program Case Study
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In recent years, as the definition of autism has expanded to include a ―spectrum‖ of disorders (ASDs), the prevalence of ASDs have increased drastically – from 4 to 10 per 10,000 children in the early 1990s to 30 to 50 per 10,000, or about 1%, in the 2000s. In order to address this problem, several state-level programs have been started and made available to any child with an ASD diagnosis. One such program, the Ohio Autism Scholarship Program (ASP), started providing up to $20,000 per year for families with formally-diagnosed ASD children to purchase services at any program-approved facility in 2004. The literature finds that programs relying on an ASD diagnosis for funding or services have the ability to influence diagnostic conclusions. This analysis builds upon these largely observational studies by quantifying the impact of one such diagnosis-dependent autism resource – the Ohio ASP - on autism rates. Currently, Ohio ASP funding can be utilized in roughly half of Ohio counties where approved providers exist. In order to determine whether changes in autism rates are attributable to the Ohio ASP, I perform both state and Ohio county difference-in-difference regression analyses controlling for general autism trends over time. At this time, it appears that the impact of the ASP on autism rates is insignificant or inconclusive. This is important to note for stakeholders who are concerned that such financial incentives may lead to false-ASD diagnoses and, in turn, strain the resources available for the children most in need of them.
Policy Analysis and Management; Honors Thesis
dissertation or thesis