Potential Change in Michigan Law Could Help Families Affected by Autism

For parents of children with autism, daily life can be a labor of love. Take, for example, Rita Douglas, who, like so many other Michigan parents, would do anything to get treatment to help her autistic child. However, those vital professional services that can help autistic children, such as physical therapy, speech pathology, or behavioral therapy can cost over $100 an hour. As a result, there are hundreds of sad stories about parents who have gone to extremes just to afford those services—including taking out second mortgages on their homes. The crux of the problem is that most insurers generally don’t cover treatment for autism.

However, a proposed change in state law may change that fact by requiring insurance companies to cover diagnosis and treatment for autism spectrum disorder. Nevertheless, opponents to that law warn that the mandate could increase insurance premiums, while supporters maintain that the increase would be less than 1% and would make a tremendous difference to families affected by autism.

The debate raises the same issues, once again: the exorbitant costs for treatment and the lengths to which families will go to pay them, including draining college funds and retirement plans, or selling their homes to cover therapy for their autistic children. Meanwhile, insurance companies refuse to provide the coverage for these vital therapies that could mean the difference between a functional life for an autistic person or no chance at a normal life whatsoever.