LANSING — Lt. Gov. Brian Calley April 18 signed into law legislation to provide insurance coverage for autism treatment for more than 15,000 Michigan families including state Sen. Tupac A. Hunter’s (D-Detroit) bill, Senate Bill 415.
Calley also signed Senate Bill 414, sponsored by Sen. Mike Green (R-Mayville), and Senate Bill 981, sponsored by Sen. Randy Richardville (R-Monroe), making Michigan the 30th state in the country to secure insurance coverage for autism treatment.
“Today is a momentous day for the more than 15,000 Michigan families who have a child with autism,” Hunter said April 19. “The enactment of this important legislation today will not only help families with autism get the coverage they deserve, but it will also ensure the early diagnosis and adequate treatment of autism, which will significantly reduce the financial burden on state services and our schools, help keep families in our state, increase the quality of the state’s service network, and create jobs.”
Less than 15 percent of Michigan children with autism are getting the services they need. Without proper medical insurance coverage, many parents of children with autism are forced to take on massive amounts of debt or forgo the necessary treatments altogether because they cannot afford them. Recommended treatment plans for families with autism can reach upwards of $200,000 a year.
Families also struggle to quickly get their child into an effective treatment program without private group health insurance coverage. This bipartisan legislation will make treatment programs more affordable and more accessible to parents and their children early in their diagnosis.
Early treatment improves an autistic child’s chance at leading a successful life and, in turn, decreases the long-term costs to the state for the child’s care which are estimated at nearly $3 million for each individual.
Hunter has been working to secure insurance coverage for autism treatment every year since 2007 when a constituent whose son has autism brought the issue to his attention.
Statistics recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show autism cases continue to rise. According to the CDC report, one in every 88 children is diagnosed with autism, and the numbers are even higher for boys with 1 in 54 being diagnosed. These numbers represent a 78 percent increase in autism cases over the last decade.
In Michigan, 15,000 children have an autism diagnosis. Twenty-nine other states, including Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, have already enacted autism insurance reform. Autism awareness and the need to adequately cover the costs of treatment continues to grow, as Arkansas, West Virginia, Virginia, Rhode Island, California and New York have all enacted autism insurance reform laws in the last year.