First Step – Visit to a DAN! Doctor

The first step in our journey to recovery came with locating a “DAN! doctor”.

Defeat Autism Now (DAN!) is a project of the Autism Research Institute, founded in the 1960s by Dr. Bernard Rimland. DAN! doctors are trained in the “DAN! Protocol,” an approach to autism treatment which starts with the idea that autism is a biomedical disorder. Specifically, DAN! doctors feel that autism is a disorder caused by a combination of lowered immune response, external toxins from vaccines and other sources, and problems caused by certain foods.   DAN! doctors are credentialed medical doctors who choose to attend a one-day DAN! training.  The Autism Research Institute (ARI) has an online list of doctors who have been through the one-day DAN! training.  That is where we located Dr. Biddle at Asheville Integrative.

The first questions most people have after locating a DAN! doctor is, “How much is this going to cost?  Does insurance cover it?” Unfortunately, most insurances do not cover these expenses.  DAN! doctors are often holistic or integrative doctors, and our insurance (Blue Cross/Blue Shield) specifically ruled out those types of services.  However, we will file the claim with our insurance just in case they will count the services towards our deductible.  The initial cost of our first visit with Dr. Biddle was $475.  We were required to make a $100 deposit upon making the appointment.  These fees did not include the costs of any testing, which I will mention later.

The appointment with Dr. Biddle took about 2 1/2 hours.  The first 45 minutes were spent with the nurse, giving a complete medical history and answering lots of questions.  Then we waited about 30 minutes for Dr. Biddle, while his nurse summarized our information for him.  Our actual time spent with Dr. Biddle was about 40 minutes.   During this time he explained that Autistic symptoms are often caused by one or more of the following:  high levels of toxic metals (mercury, aluminum, lead, arsenic, etc) and the inability to rid the body of these naturally or gut dysfunction (yeast or bacteria overgrowth, food allergies and sensitivities, malabsorption which leads to deficient levels of nutrients, etc.).  I might also add one other cause from my research, high levels of oxidative stress.  I will talk more about oxidative stress at a later time or link to an article for you that explains it.

My husband’s worst fear had been that we were going to pay that $475 and spend over two hours in this doctor’s office and that they would just recommend some things and send us on our way, without anything medical happening.  Thankfully, the doctor ordered plenty of tests.  However, I hate to admit that the costs of these tests took us by surprise and left a sick feeling in my stomach.  “How much will my husband allow us to spend?” I wondered (keep in mind that my husband still makes claims that nothing is wrong with Skyler).  Dr. Biddle ranked the tests according to priority, and we were told that we did not have to do them all at once.  We ended up with basic blood testing (which our insurance will likely cover), urinary porphyrins (to look for heavy metals), hair analysis (to check if heavy metals are getting excreted or stuck inside), and a test for several common food allergies.  These tests added $290 to our initial $475 price tag.  However, although I refused an Organic Acid Analysis (costing $425) that day, I have decided to call and tell them to send it.  I feel this test is extremely important because it will look at yeast and bacteria in the gut.  You see, Skyler only had one vaccine (the HepB at birth), so my gut is that we are looking at more of a yeast problem with him, rather than a heavy metal problem.  So, now our total is up to $1190.  Ouch!  The only test we ended up refusing is the test to check gluten/casein sensitivities (approximately $250).  We would’ve probably added that on too, but we have been trying to eliminate casein over the past week at the recommendation of Skyler’s school, and we can not give this test unless we return him to a full casein diet.  So, we may end up doing this at a later date since I always said that I didn’t want to limit Skyler’s diet without actual proof that it was medically necessary.

I wish I could say the money trail ended with the tests, but it didn’t.  After ordering the tests, the doctor also recommended several supplements which could be purchased upstairs in the separate Supplement Store.  I personally chose to come home and order the supplements on-line so that I could ensure that the prices were reasonable and so I could research what I was buying before actually purchasing it.  I ended up buying Carlson Laboratories – Norwegian Cod Liver Oil ($17.22 with shipping), Klaire Labs – Vital-Plex Powder Probiotic ($24.61 with shipping), Iodine skin test and supplement ($10.76 in supplement store), Magnesium Sulfate Cream ($27.17 with shipping), and Methyl-B12 shots ($52.50 with a prescription).  In addition to these, I still need to order VitaSpectrum multivitamin powder (around $25.00).  The only recommended supplement that I did not purchase was Vital-Zymes Complete (digestive enzymes), because I read that these can exacerbate possible gluten/casein sensitivities.  While waiting for all of this to arrive, I have started giving Skyler Epsom Salt baths to replace his magnesium levels.  I have only done it two nights so far, but I swear I can tell a difference in that he is calmer and more “with it.”  That is what prompted me to go ahead and purchase the Magnesium Sulfate cream so that he doesn’t have to sit in a 20 minute bath each night.

So, now our grand total so far is $1322 with another $25 needing to be added on soon for the multivitamin.  Double ouch!  Our next doctor’s appointment will be in August, and I think we will find out all of the test results then and will get more personalized treatment recommendations.  That next visit will cost $195.00 plus whatever tests or treatments are needed.  As you can see, the money is adding up fast, and I can see how families could blow through their savings pretty quickly.  However, I can personally say without any hesitation that if ANY of this helps Skyler AT ALL, it will all be WORTH IT!

Stay tuned for future updates….

Insurance Update 7/31/11 – Out of the $1190 I initially paid to the DAN doctor that I filed with my Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC insurance, only $511.16 was applied to my deductible.  It was explained that $511.16 was the amount that in-network providers had agreed to accept from BCBSNC members as full payment of covered services.  They are pretty much saying, “You lose the rest because you went out of network.”  Nothing was reimbursed by insurance.   Oh well, I would do it again in a heartbeat because I continue to see Skyler progressing each and every day.  I just wanted everyone to know what to expect from your insurance.

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