Lawmakers Approve Bills Requiring Autism Coverage

LANSING (AP) – Michigan lawmakers gave final legislative approval Thursday to bills that will require insurance companies to offer coverage for autism treatments.

The bills were approved by relatively large margins Thursday in the House and Senate, which will send the measures to Gov. Rick Snyder.

A previous attempt to mandate coverage for autism failed in Michigan in 2010 over concerns about costs to insurers. But the bills had plenty of high-level support this year, including from Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, whose 5-year-old daughter, Reagan, has been diagnosed with autism.

Calley said the votes were “very rewarding” after years of effort that pre-date his time in office. He said the measures will help families that, unlike his, don’t have the resources to get expensive autism therapies for their children.

“There’s really no hope for them, absent this type of action,” Calley said. “And now there will be.”

A bill backed by Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville helped soften opposition by setting up a fund to help reimburse some companies for paid claims related to diagnosis and treatment of autism. It’s not yet known how much money would be included for what supporters call an autism coverage incentive fund, although some Republicans have estimated it could cost around $15 million in its first year.

Bills passed the House by votes of 91-19 and 84-26. In the Senate, bills were approved by 30-8, 29-9 and 28-10 votes.

The legislation would not apply to organizations that self-insure, such as some large companies.

Supporters of an insurance mandate say it would save money for Michigan service providers in the long run while helping families with autistic children. They want coverage for more intensive and costly behavioral therapies for autism, a range of disorders that hinder a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others.

More than half the states already have laws aimed at requiring insurance companies to cover some types of autism treatments or therapies.

Some Michigan lawmakers want the state to go further and require broader insurance coverage for mental illness, substance abuse disorders and pervasive developmental disorders. But those measures are not part of the legislative package approved Thursday.

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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