LANSING, Mich. — Michigan lawmakers plan another attempt at passing legislation related to insurance coverage for autism in 2012, a key legislative leader said Thursday.
Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, a Republican from Monroe, said legislation is expected to be introduced early next year. It's likely to have changes from autism coverage legislation that died in the Senate in 2010.
Previous efforts to mandate that health insurers provide coverage for certain autism therapies have run into opposition from business and insurance groups. They say mandating coverage would raise the cost of employer-sponsored health insurance, and that's a major reason why efforts for such a mandate have been stalled in Michigan.
More than half the states have adopted laws that require insurers to provide autism coverage, and supporters say it's time for Michigan to join them.
"Families in Michigan have worked so hard for several years to try and get this passed," said Lorri Unumb, a state government affairs official with Autism Speaks, a nationwide advocacy group. "To be frank, they are desperate for some sort of relief."
It's not clear exactly how the new Michigan proposal might differ from previous versions of legislation. The legislative package could incorporate or include some bills that were introduced in the Legislature earlier this year.
It's possible that the legislation might offer some type of financial incentive for businesses to help offset the costs of mandated coverage, but that still could run into opposition from business groups that say coverage decisions should be left to employers and employees.
"At the end of the day, if there still remains a mandate component, we will be opposed," said Wendy Block of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.
Supporters of an insurance mandate say it would save money for Michigan service providers in the long run while helping families with autistic children. They want coverage for more intensive and costly behavioral therapies for autism, a range of disorders that hinder a person's ability to communicate and interact with others.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder supports requiring insurers to cover treatments for autism. So does Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who has a child with autism.
Calley said Thursday the administration is "encouraged by the level of interest and engagement by legislative leadership on this issue."
Richardville said he is working toward a solution that will be bipartisan with input from business groups and autism coverage supporters.
"We want a solution so we can lead with that after the first of the year," he said.