Do you pay the "Hidden Tax" for your child's food allergy safety? From school to summer camp, you may not realize that this under-the-radar cost isn't always typical or required for everyone. Is it fair to pay extra for disabilities and special needs? Where do you stand?
In a Facebook group I belong to for parents that have children with food allergies, someone asked if it was odd that their allergist required payment for filling out any school forms that were needed for documentation of the allergies the child had. All those necessary forms schools require for any and everything at the beginning of the year. Whether it’s to carry an Epi-Pen, inhaler, medications, self-administered vs. not, actions plans, meals/preparation, other restrictions and special needs. Essentials like filling out documentation for 504 plans, ECPs (Emergency Care Plans), etc.
Many parents joined in stating that “no”, they did not need to pay to have these forms signed, or “yes”, they had to pay anywhere from $10 to $50 per form! Someone even said it was $25 a page! Some parents said they were able to get around this added cost by having their primary care doctor sign the papers instead of their allergist and vise-versa, or obtaining the forms before school began and bringing the forms to be signed to an appointment at the physician's office (prior knowledge would need to be had by the parents here).
This ridiculous cost riled me up so much because I saw this Facebook thread the day after I had been to the allergist myself. I hadn’t been there since high school, but I saw the same “We charge $30 per school form” signs posted everywhere in the office (my allergist doesn’t care if you bring the forms to an appointment either, you still have to pay). I remember having to pay for these myself when I was still in high school.
These forms can get really complicated with younger children who require much more direct support and restriction (i.e. classroom, snack time, class parties, etc). And these forms are never a “one time” thing. Those ridiculously long, redundant forms and documentation are the same things that “need to be updated fully” each year for the schools. Say you have a first grader and need about 4 separate forms filled out. Over the course of their elementary school years up to high school, at a price of $25 perform, that would be $800, just to get them through 8th grade. Not to mention….what if you have multiple children with these needed forms?
However, is it really a surprise? When one has disabilities and special needs, there always is an added cost to just about everything. It COSTS money to be disabled (using this term to encompass added medical needs). If you need special accommodations that deviate from the “norm” of society, even though these needs are completely NOT in your control, you better be prepared to pay the “disability/special needs tax”.
Here’s an important thing to keep in mind. For disabilities like food allergies and celiac disease, the cost of living automatically goes up. In terms of food, medications (i.e. Epi-Pens), hygiene products, etc. What happens to low-income families? What happens to the children from families that also qualify for reduced lunch programs (which actually requires even more documentation of allergies from a medical provider for special modifications to the program)? What happens to the families that just can’t afford that extra $80 at the beginning of the school year?
I understand the other side. The school, needs these forms filled out yearly, for safety and liability. The allergist/physician is the only one who can certify, that “yes”, a child has these needs and these accommodations are legitimate and must be met. Yes, it can be time consuming for the medical office and physicians to fill out, certify, and sign numerous forms for numerous patients.
Sadly, since there is no standard or law about this, some physicians charge, some don’t (you as the patient/family either get lucky in this or not). These forms go beyond just “start of a new school year” but extend to things like sports, camps, etc. For most of these forms, the parents are the ones filling out the redundant information, thus the physician only needs to provide a signature, and maybe that’s why some physicians don’t see the need to tack on charge for these required forms.
There is such a wide range on how these required forms are handled. Every school and every child is going to need different forms and different amounts of documentation. Each allergist/doctor/medical provider is going to set rates and charges differently (or not at all). But seeing a mother say her daughter’s allergist charges $50 per form is not okay. Why does safety for life-threatening ailments have to come at an additional cost? Why does there even need to be a hurdle to overcome for families with these needs, just trying to send their child to free public school and not die while in the classroom?
I want to hear your thoughts on this and open this topic up for discussion.
+ Do you have to pay to have your child’s school forms filled out by their doctor?
+ Do you think it’s right that some doctors (especially actual allergists, not primary) are charging high fees for simple signatures?
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