Schuitmaker bill improves access to autism treatment

For Immediate Release
March 20, 2013

Contact: Derek Sova

Schuitmaker bill improves access to autism treatment

LANSING, Mich.—A bill introduced in the Michigan Senate, sponsored by Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, will make it easier for families to obtain care and treatment for loved ones coping with autism. Senate Bill 204 would prohibit insurance companies from covering autism services differently than other outpatient medical services.

“Last year the Legislature worked with Lieutenant Governor Calley on making autism treatment more readily available,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “Unfortunately, since the law took effect, we have seen some insurance companies exploit loopholes by placing additional—often unreasonable—requirements on patients needing treatment. This legislation will ensure that autism patients are not subject to additional rules.”

Michigan's Autism Insurance Reform law went into effect last October. Health insurance companies regulated by the state are required to provide an autism benefit to its insured members covering services related to the diagnosis and treatment of children with autism. 

To get around the law, some insurance companies are only covering autism treatment if a diagnosis is obtained at an approved Autism Evaluation Center. This requirement imposes a burden on many families because there are only five centers located in the state and they are primarily concentrated in Southeast Michigan.

“This bill is part of a larger effort to treat autism and the pain it brings to those who are affected.  I am proud of the strides we have made already, but there is a lot more to accomplish,” Schuitmaker said. “I look forward to working with the lieutenant governor on making Michigan’s autism program one of the best in the country.”

The lieutenant governor recently announced the Michigan Autism Spectrum Disorders State Plan, which seeks to improve the way autism is diagnosed and treated. The plan calls for a comprehensive approach to improving diagnosis, treatment and coordination among professionals.