GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – West Michigan autism experts and parents said today at the third of four public hearings that Michigan should join the 21 other states that require health insurers to cover treatment for autism, which affects some 15,000 Michigan children.
Autism impairs a child’s ability to communicate, learn and relate to others. It is
the fastest-growing developmental disability in the country, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Yet Michigan health insurers don’t cover treatment, considering it experimental.
“Early intervention and treatment is an important component in achieving higher outcomes for children with autism,” said Phil Weaver, President and CEO of Hope Network. “However, without insurance coverage, many of these families are unable to access the care and treatment that could provide their children with a higher quality life. It is important that we support legislation that provides every child diagnosed with autism the opportunity for a brighter future.”
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. But the cost of treatment can be as high as $50,000 annually.
It’s estimated that Michigan taxpayers could save $14 billion in lifetime costs for the care of the current population of children with autism if insurance reform were enacted.
The bipartisan, informational hearings are being led by Sens. Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, and Tupac A. Hunter, D-Detroit. Hearings also have been held in Detroit and Ypsilanti, and a Lansing hearing is planned.
“We want to know about the experiences of West Michigan families struggling with autism, so we can ensure that any statewide response to this issue is appropriate,” Richardville said. “At the same time, we need to keep the interests of Michigan taxpayers in mind.”
Judith Ursitti, regional director of state advocacy relations for the nationwide advocacy group Autism Speaks, echoed that concern.
“Without desperately needed and justifiable insurance reform, Michigan taxpayers will be forced to continue to shoulder the bill for individuals with untreated autism,” Ursitti said in a statement.
Contact: Sharon Emery 517- 896-7075 (c), 517-487-9320 firstname.lastname@example.org