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Bill to cover autism therapy passes Senate

Published February 28, 2014 9:50 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A bill that would require Utah health insurers to cover autism treatment cleared the Senate Friday 18-7 and will move to the House despite concerns over how to fund it.

Senate passage of SB57 follows weeks, if not years, of thorough debate,said sponsoring Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Cottonwood Heights, who is trying to get this legislation passed for the third year.

"We've had the discussion," said Shiozawa, an emergency physician. "We know that this is a real disease, we know there is a cure. We're simply asking for insurance coverage for these insureds."

Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, said though Shiozawa's bill is compassionate, he could not support it because of the cost. . The mandate would apply not only to state-regulated private insurers, but also to the health plan for state employees and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). It's estimated costs would increase for those state-funded programs by $3 million.

"I want to fund these people. In fact, if we pass this bill, I'll be so thrilled I'll be out there shaking their hands and congratulating them. But I'll have to take someone else's money in order to fund this program. Where do we draw the line?" said Christensen.

SB57 is similar to laws that exist in 34 states requiring insurers to pay for autism treatment.

amcdonald@sltrib.com

twitter: @amymcdonald89