08 Apr

Autism – Please Sign the Petition, Please

State lawmakers push for autism treatment coverage

Jennifer Chambers / The Detroit News

West Bloomfield Township — Some Michigan lawmakers launched an online petition drive today to allow residents to show support for their efforts to require insurance companies to pay for autism treatments.

State Reps. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield Township, and Vicki Barnett, D-Farmington Hills, along with House Majority Floor Leader Kathy Angerer, D-Dundee, gathered with parents of autistic children and autism therapy advocates in West Bloomfield Township to launch a campaign to support the growing number of families struggling with the costs of autism care.

Autism, a neurological disorder affecting 1 in 150 children in the United States, is characterized by difficulties with verbal and nonverbal communication, social interaction and repetitive behaviors. Currently, most health insurance companies cover only screening for the disorder, leaving families with autistic children to bear the high costs of treatment on their own. Treating autism can cost a single family $50,000 or more annually.

Tammy Maver of Lake Orion said her family has gone $80,000 in debt to pay for therapy treatments for her daughter, 8, and son, 6, both of whom have autism. Tammy’s husband, Pete, has two jobs and insurance, but it provides little to no coverage for the treatments.

“These therapies have helped our children, and we will never give up,” Maver said.

According to the Michigan Department of Education, an estimated 13,839 children in Michigan had some form of autism in 2008.

Residents can sign the petition at by clicking on the autism petition graphic.

Last week, the Michigan House of Representatives passed legislation introduced by Angerer that will encourage greater research into the causes and treatments of the disorder. The bill will also create the Autism Research Fund to research the causes and treatments to the disorder, as well as establish a new income tax checkoff box to allow Michigan residents to voluntarily designate a portion of their tax return to the fund.

Eight states have enacted legislation in the last two years to require insurance companies to cover autism treatments. They are: Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas.

Lawmakers in Lansing have tried more than once to get such coverage mandated. Three bills were introduced in the 2007-2008 session and died. They were all reintroduced in February and March in the Michigan House and Senate.

Typically, insurers in Michigan have been resistant to mandates. Rick Murdock with the Michigan Association of Health Plans, which represents 20 health plans that insure 2.4 million Michigan residents, said his group is looking for language in the bills that would require the services to be based upon evidence-based medicine.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the state’s largest insurer, opposes the bills, calling them government mandates.

Sign the Petition

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