With Gov. Rick Snyder out of the country, Michigan's Lt. Gov. signed a bill he had a strong hand in pushing through the Legislature.
The Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta reports on today's signing of the autism coverage bill:
To the applause of families with autistic children, Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley has signed legislation that requires insurance companies to cover childhood autism treatments.
The new law, which will go into effect on October 1, requires insurance companies to pay for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis and treatment for children up to age 18.
The state law does not, however, compel "self-funded" insurance plans to carry autism coverage. Those health insurance plans are regulated by federal laws.
Most large employers, such as GM, Home Depot, DTE Energy, and even the State of Michigan provide benefits through a "self-funded health care plan."
To get self-funded insurers to adopt autism coverage, the new state law establishes for an incentive program to encourage employers with self-funded insurance plans to adopt autism coverage.
The Autism Alliance of Michigan, the Behavior Analysis Association of Michigan, and Lt. Gov. Calley plan to hold an informational workshop on May 14 focused on preparing for the autism insurance benefit.
This workshop is part of a statewide effort to build service capacity, and communicate and assist those who may be offering the treatment options covered under the new autism legislation.
Lt. Gov. Calley, who has a daughter with ASD, said "it's a new day in Michigan."
More from Pluta's report:
Right now, we’re one of the 10 worst places to be, one of the 10 worst states to be in if you have autism. When this is done, we’re going to be well on our way to being one of the best.”
Calley said that’s because the coverage will lead to more and better services in Michigan for children with autism. He also says taxpayers will save money because children who get early treatment are
less likely to require public assistance when they get older.
Pluta points out that some insurance companies and business groups opposed the mandate, and other advocacy groups said insurance companies should also cover treatments for mental health disorders.
The Snyder administration has not taken a position on expanding the mandate.
*Correction - an earlier version of this story stated "and other advocacy groups said insurance companies should also cover treatments for other mental health disorders." ASD is classified as a developmental disorder. The copy has been corrected above.