Zachary Maxson is a student at Jackson High School and in many ways like other 17-year-olds. However, he's had to deal with what doctors call sensory integration issues as a child and in 2010, he was diagnosed with autism.
"He has difficulty understanding subtleties in language...If we ask him to crack the door, he will want to put a crack in the door," said Zachary's mother, Susan Maxson.
Like thousands of other Michigan families, the Maxson family will benefit if lawmakers decide to mandate insurance coverage for treatment of autism. On Tuesday, the state senate passed bills doing exactly that. In order to get support from insurance companies, the senate also passed a bill that sets aside funding to reimburse insurers for the claims.
"We need coverage. This is a problem that's not going to go away," said Susan Maxson.
The bills passed the senate with bipartisan support, though several lawmakers voted against it. Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) is one of them arguing the plan leaves out families with no health insurance.
"I favored putting money into the children's fund and then parents can seek reimbursement for their cost for approved treatments," said Sen. Jones.
In other words, Jones wants taxpayer dollars going straight to families affected by autism and not insurance companies.
As the bills make their way through the legislature, the Maxson family is counting themselves lucky since a counseling service has agreed to provide Zachary's treatment for free. If not, the family says they would not be able to afford treatment. They were quoted $750 per month for outpatient care and $150,000 for 18 months for inpatient care.
If the bills get signed into law, reimbursements to insurance companies could cost the state around $15 million in the first year.