SB57 would add Utah to the list of 34 states that require insurers to pay for autism treatment. It cleared the Senate Business and Labor Committee 6-1, despite concerns that it could raise insurance rates for employers, including the state of Utah.
Fiscal analysts predict the bill would cost the state about $3 million, mostly in increased premiums for state employees.
Sponsoring Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Cottonwood Heights, said data from other states with autism coverage requirements show the increases in premiums costs are negligible. A study in Missouri showed its autism mandate bumped the cost of health insurance claims by 0.2 percent.
"There’s a medical adage you never want to be the first or the last to embrace a therapy," said Shiozawa, a physician. But "this is not an investigational drug or therapy. We know this is safe and that it works."
The bill is endorsed by the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and Utah’s doctor lobbies, the Utah Medical Association (UMA) and Utah Academy of Family Physicians.
It’s opposed by the equally politically powerful insurance industry, which contends it will raise insurance premiums for small businesses that can least afford to pay them and will likely drop their health benefits. SB57 would only affect state-regulated insurers, those that sell directly to individuals and small employers.
But faced with growing ire over coverage denials, insurers were hard-pressed to mount a persuasive argument Friday.