Tuesday a panel of parents and experts testified before state lawmakers in an effort to help get Michigan to require health insurers to cover treatment for autism.
It is a disorder which affects socialization and learning for some 15,000 Michigan children. "Many children with autism will need special education for their entire school career, and will need institutionalization as adults if they don't get the treatment," said Lorri Unumb, Autism Speaks.
Treatment that for many families is a huge financial drain. "We've borrowed. I've financed from my retirement account, whatever it takes. It's something that you would almost sell your soul for. Almost," said Stacie Rulison who's son has autism.
Experts say treatment for autism works but it's expensive. They say it can cost tens of thousands of dollars a year. That's why parents and experts are trying to convince lawmakers Michigan should join 23 other states that require health insurers to cover autism treatment.
"Sometimes I will be talking with families who are informing me of their plans to leave our state to go to some other state where they can receive this treatment that is covered by insurance," said Ruth Anan, Autism Expert.
Experts say it's an investment that will push insurance costs up slightly, less than a dollar a month for every individual. But they say it's well worth the price to help children with autism.
"If they do get treatment many will go on to lead productive and independent lives," said Unumb. Tuesday's public hearing is the last of four on autism health insurance reform. Lawmakers say they'll use the information to draw up a report before considering legislation.