Last year state Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Cottonwood Heights, presented a bill that required insurance companies to cover resources for children with autism spectrum disorder. The bill was implemented as a pilot program and is set to expire this year. When it was presented during the last session, it was hotly debated and in some cases vehemently opposed in the Legislature and by the insurance industry.
Despite this opposition, the bill passed and was implemented last year. In the one year it has been running, 15,000 Utah families have been able to access care for their children without going bankrupt.
At the recent hearing to report on the progress of this pilot program and determine if it should continue, the Utah Health Insurance Association was once more in attendance. This time, however, the tone had changed. They reported that the costs had not gone up as had been anticipated and that the bill had actually helped the company to protect families.
When asked for follow-up questions by the legislative body, Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, spoke. He stated that he had opposed this bill from the beginning, that he believed government did not belong in what should be a market-driven and regulated industry.
Then, to everyone’s surprise, he said that he believed that the bill had indeed set out what it intended to do, and even he had to allow his humanity to play a role in his decision to move the bill forward.
It was a great moment in the hearing, and it was a great moment politically. Could this mean that even the most extreme of us, on both the right and the left, might begin to seek the best results for our populations and work together to accomplish them? Can we start to admit when we are wrong about policies and work together to make them better?
Judging by the experience in the Health and Human Services Committee, I think that maybe we can.