Legislative Committee Hears Testimony on Obamacare – Endorses Medicaid Proposal

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The Utah State Legislature’s Interim Health and Human Services Committee met Wednesday morning spent time to discuss federal healthcare reform and long-term care insurance.

The committee was first given an update on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). Starting in a few weeks on October 1st, Utahns without healthcare coverage will be able to start shopping for private health insurance via the online healthcare marketplaces (exchanges), or qualify for public options. Open enrollment runs through March 31, 2014, with coverage starting as early as January 1, 2014.

During the same meeting, the Department of Labor announced they have decided to no longer enforce a previous $100 per day fine for employers who fail to distribute information to workers about the health insurance exchanges.

It was also announced that despite the worries by some that all Utahns who elect not to obtain health insurance—through their employer, the healthcare exchanges, private, publicly, or via other means—will be faced with a penalty fee or tax for not doing so, it is now being estimated that only about 2% of Americans will face such a penalty.

Also on the docket for Wednesday’s meeting was a presentation about draft legislation, being proposed by Senator Todd Weiler (Republican – Woods Cross) which would amend Utah’s Medicaid plan to create a long-term care (LTC) partnership, allowing people who purchase long-term care insurance to receive an offset for the value of the insurance plan if the person seeks long-term care under Medicaid. If the bill were to succeed, Utah would join 44 other states that have LTC Partnerships. Senator Weiler strongly touted the financial benefits of such a program, saying that California and New York, both of whom have LTC Partnerships, have saved $33 million and $19 million respectfully. Beneficial effects would not be visible for several years, however.

The bill received a favorable vote from the committee, with Senator Allen Christensen (Republican – North Ogden) and Representatives LaVar Christensen (Republican – Draper) and Brian Greene (Republican – Pleasant Grove) dissenting.


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