SALT LAKE CITY — Insurance companies would have to cover autism spectrum disorder under a bill that passed the Utah Senate on Friday.

SB57 requires health benefit plans to cover up to $36,000 annually for a child with autism who is younger than 9 years old and up to $18,000 for children ages 9 to 18 for treatment of the condition.

"We know this is a real disease. We know there is a cure. We're simply asking for insurance coverage," said Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Cottonwood Heights, the bill's sponsor.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said he knows of a young boy who was treated for a broken arm but the insurance company denied coverage because of his autism.

"That is discrimination. If that's how insurance companies act in my district, it's going to change how I feel about insurance mandates," he said.

Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, was among those who opposed the bill, which passed 17-7. He said he couldn't support a mandate when there isn't money to pay for it.

"I want to fund these people. But I have to take someone else's money in order to fund this program. Where do we draw the line?" he said.

The bill now goes to the House.

— Dennis Romboy