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19 Apr

Michigan Autism coverage bill signed into law

Autism coverage bill signed into law

  • By Kathy Barks Hoffman
  • Associated Press

Lansing— Insurance companies will have to offer coverage for autism  treatments six months from now, a move the parent of one autistic boy said will  make a huge difference to families struggling to pay for their children’s  treatment.

“This legislation means the world to us and to thousands of other families  across the state of Michigan,” said Scott Koenigsknecht of Fowler, who attended  a bill-signing ceremony at the official governor’s residence Wednesday with  7-year-old Cooper and the rest of his family. “The beauty of this legislation is  … no family will have ever to leave a doctor’s appointment without some kind  of hope.”

Diagnosed with autism at age 21/2, Cooper now is attending first grade with  the help of a full-time aide, and he’s functioning at a higher level than he  would have without treatment, his father said.

As the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District superintendent,  Koenigsknecht said Michigan school districts pay more than $150 million a year  to educate children with autism, an amount that could decrease if more families  get insurance to cover treatment.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, whose daughter, Reagan, has been diagnosed with  autism, signed the measures into law Wednesday with Reagan standing nearby. Gov.  Rick Snyder is visiting Michigan National Guard troops in Afghanistan.

Lawmakers gave final approval to the measures last month, and both  Republicans and Democrats who worked on the legislation said it was the plight  of families trying to pay for their children’s treatment that made the  legislation so critical.

“When things are personal, you work a lot harder,” said Democratic Sen.  Rebekah Warren of Ann Arbor.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, a Monroe Republican who has been a  state lawmaker for nearly a dozen years, called the effort “the single best  piece of bipartisan work I’ve seen in my career.” Richardville said he had to  find a bill that would not be an unfunded mandate. His solution was to set up a  fund to help reimburse some companies for paid claims related to diagnosis and  treatment of autism.

Some advocates said the measure should have required coverage for all mental  health issues children face.

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