Autism Speaks Hails Signing of Legislation Making Michigan 30th State to Enact Autism Insurance Reform

LANSING (April 18, 2012)  -- Autism Speaks hailed the signing today of legislation that makes Michigan the 30th state to enact autism insurance reform and the first to act since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued alarming new data on the prevalence of autism in America. The new law requires coverage up to the age of 18 for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and speech and occupational therapy for children diagnosed with autism.

"This is a tribute to the perseverance and dedication of families all across Michigan who fought for years to see this day become a reality," said Lorri Unumb, Autism Speaks vice president for state government relations. "Lt. Gov. Brian Calley deserves special credit for helping to forge the legislative compromise that led to victory. With the prevalence of autism in the United States now estimated at 1 in every 88 children, the need to act has never been more urgent. Because Michigan chose to act, its families will soon be able to access therapies that have been medically proven to make a difference in the lives of children affected by autism."

Lt. Gov. Calley signed the legislation in the absence of Gov. Rick Snyder who made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan. Autism Speaks worked closely with Michigan advocates and legislators to rally support and help shape the legislation.

The two autism insurance reform bills, SB.414, sponsored by Sen. Michael Green (R-31), and SB.415, sponsored by Sen. Tupac Hunter (D-5) , were introduced last summer and endorsed by Autism Speaks.

Thousands of Michigan families, in the absence of insurance coverage, have been forced to pay out-of-pocket or rely on taxpayer-funded programs for behavioral health treatments, which can cost $50,000 a year or more. Autism Speaks has helped lead the fight in statehouses across the nation to end insurance company discrimination against families raising children with autism. This year, Michigan has become the 30th state to enact autism insurance reform, the Alaska Legislature has just approved legislation, and states such as Louisiana and Vermont are moving bills to strengthen their existing laws.

The prevalence of autism has doubled since the CDC began tracking the disorder. A recent study found the cost to society is $126 billion a year, triple the estimate of just six years ago.

“The use of intensive intervention treatments, such as ABA, can substantially increase a child’s independence, thereby reducing future taxpayer costs for special education and social services,” said Unumb. “In states that have enacted autism insurance reform, actual experience has demonstrated the impact on premiums has averaged 31 cents per member per month, less than the cost of a postage stamp."