The second week of the 2019 legislative session is underway and began with much debate and even more controversy.
Utah Senators gave approval Monday to scale back a voter-approved full Medicaid expansion.
According to a report in the Associated Press, the proposal by GOP lawmakers would cover about 50,000 fewer people under Medicaid and add work requirements and spending caps. Leaders say those steps are essential to keep costs under control.
The plan now goes to the Utah House and will be debated, reviewed and voted on by representatives throughout the state, including a number in Cache County.
Casey Snider represents State House District 5. He said, “We need to make sure you can take care of people, that’s what we’ve seen in the passage of the proposition.” He added, “We also have to be able to pay for it. That’s the dialogue that’s going back and forth at this time.”
The voter-approved law would fully expand Medicaid under President Barack Obama’s signature health care law to people making up to 138 percent of the poverty line, or about 150,000 low-income people.
The lawmakers’ version scales that back to 100 percent of the line, so the state would need a special waiver to get the extra federal money promised to help fund the expansion.
Representative Joel Ferry said the majority of people in District 1 voted against Proposition 3, “so for my voters, they want me to take the fiscally responsible approach.”
“I want to make sure that people get the heath care that they need and that they’re taken care of,” Ferry continued. “I think this a good compromise because ti does that without putting us in fiscal peril.”
Representing Utah House District 3, Val Potter said discussion on the Medicaid expansion has taken up a lot of time, but he said it’s something legislators want to get right.
“We’re trying to get a resolution before the session goes on too far,” Potter added. “We don’t want to get into the last couple of weeks and be debating this, we want to have it resolved.”
Advocates of Medicaid expansion argue the state should roll out the changes that won with 53 percent of the vote and call for dealing with any funding shortage as it comes. The rollout is set for April 1.
Governor Gary Herbert has not endorsed any bill and talked only in general terms about Medicaid expansion. In his recent State of the State speech, he said “with some common sense adjustments” it could be implemented without delay.