"There seems to be an effort to speak ill of federal health insurance mandates while at the same time we're having conversations of state-level mandates," said Dave Jessup, director of government relations for the Small Business Association of Michigan, which opposes the autism bills. "A mandate is a mandate whether it be a federal mandate or a state mandate."
The House Families, Children and Seniors Committee on Tuesday passed Senate Bills 414, 415 and 981 after lowering the amount the state would reimburse insurers and third-party administrators annually for certain autism therapies.
Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, a Republican whose daughter has autism, said a mandate is necessary to stop a brain drain of autism specialists who get trained in Michigan but move to states with insurance mandates. [emphasis added]
"We have no idea how much it's going to cost," said Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, who voted against the bills. "It's wide open."
There are an estimated 15,000 children in Michigan with some form of autism, but not all children will require the expensive one-on-one speech and occupational therapy that bankrupts some families, Calley said.
"It doesn't really make sense to expect utilization will always be capped out," Calley told the committee.
The legislation is drawing opposition for different reasons. Business groups oppose the individual mandate, fearing it will drive up insurance premiums on top of new regulations in the federal health care reform law being argued before the Supreme Court this week and open the door to new mandates in the future.
"The question is: 'How do you say yes to some (mandates) and no to others?'" asked Wendy Block, health policy director for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.