Senate softens language regarding Medicaid expansion in Utah

2013-03-14T00:32:00Z 2013-03-14T06:52:36Z Senate softens language regarding Medicaid expansion in UtahBilly Hesterman - Daily Herald Daily Herald
March 14, 2013 12:32 am  • 

SALT LAKE CITY -- Both houses of the Utah Legislature have given their OK to a bill regarding the expansion of Medicaid that can come with health care reform.

The substitute bill, which the House approved late Wednesday night after the Senate approved it earlier in the day, states that no decisions on the expansion can be made until the governor has received data in two distinct ongoing studies about the likely impacts to the state of the expansion of Medicaid. The new bill also states that the governor would have to work with the Legislature to make the final decision on expansion.

The original bill, which Rep. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, sponsored, stated that Gov. Gary Herbert could not expand Medicaid at all, an option available to the governor under the Affordable Care Act. The new bill was drafted by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross. Weiler said this version would cause the Legislature to slow down and allow for time before making a decision on such a major issue.

"I am not advocating for Medicaid expansion, I'm advocating to slow down this process," Weiler said. "Let's slow down, take a breath, make an educated decision and include the public."

One provision in the bill does include a nod to what Anderegg was suggesting as an alternative to expanding Medicaid. Anderegg and other House supporters of the earlier version stated Utah could avoid having to expand if "charity care" was given by Utah's medical professionals. Included in the new bill is that the task force assigned to study the impacts of Medicaid expansion also look at what options are available in the state to utilize the charity care.

Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, had concerns about the new bill as he wondered if there was enough in the bill to allow for the public to be involved in the decision. Dabakis said this decision might be the most important decision the state makes and he wanted to make sure public comment was part of the process.

Weiler explained the groups doing the studies on the expansion are allowed to take public comment and that as the Legislature continues to move forward on the issue it will hold public meetings as well.

-- Billy Hesterman covers the Utah State Legislature and local politics for the Daily Herald. You can follow him on Twitter at: @billyhesterman
Read more from Billy Hesterman here.

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