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26 Nov

Autism – I will no long remain silent

Lt. Gov.-elect Calley makes personal appeal to senators for autism insurance reform$14 billion in savings to taxpayers leads argument for requiring insurance companies to cover Michigan’s 15,000 children with autism11.23.2010–

LANSING, Mich. – Speaking as a taxpayer, a lawmaker and the father of a child with autism, Michigan’s next lieutenant governor, Rep. Brian Calley, today sent his Senate colleagues a five-minute videotaped message, urging them to approve autism insurance reform in next week’s lame duck session.

In the “I will no long remain silent” video, which is also available on YouTube, Calley talks about being at a House Health Policy Committee hearing where a young boy described his life before receiving autism treatment and how it suddenly “clicked … I have a daughter with autism.”

Despite his personal experience with the neurobiological disorder, which affects 15,000 children in Michigan, Calley says it was the cost savings to taxpayers that convinced him of the need for autism insurance reform.

“When we make a choice in our insurance code to say that we’re not going to cover autism services, not only are we choosing to condemn people – real people – to a life of dependency, but we’re also obligating taxpayers to just an incredible amount of expense … the savings to taxpayers over the life of these people (with autism) would be about $14 billion,” Calley says in the video.

Autism insurance reform was approved by the House last year and dies at year end if the Senate doesn’t act. Twenty-three states have already moved to require insurance companies to cover autism treatment. Research shows that with early detection and intensive intervention, autism treatments such as behavioral, occupational, physical and speech therapies can help most children with autism.

Sens. Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, and Tupac A. Hunter, D-Detroit, held bipartisan hearings on the issue over the summer in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing and Ypsilanti, in an effort to gather information from autism experts and Michigan families on what’s needed.

Calley concludes the videotaped message by saying: “… I’m speaking up for my daughter but also as a person who knows what these things are like, I’m speaking up for a whole population of people who are struggling today – mostly in silence – through the day-to-day life of a family with autism.”

The video message was sponsored by the Autism Alliance of Michigan, based in Detroit, and Autism Speaks, a nationwide advocacy group.

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“Autism impairs a child’s ability to communicate, learn and relate to others,” said Susan Lerch, president and CEO of the Autism Alliance of Michigan. “Treatment can cost as much as $50,000 annually, so insurance coverage for Michigan families is absolutely imperative.”

Judith Ursitti, regional director of state advocacy relations for Autism Speaks, said: “Without desperately needed and justifiable insurance reform, Michigan taxpayers will be forced to continue to shoulder the bill for individuals with untreated autism.”

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