On Tuesday, Senator Allan Christensen (Republican – North Ogden) defended the so called “Frail Utah” plan he is proposing as a counter to Obamacare.
“For months now we have been considering various plans on Medicaid expansion since Obamacare was passed. The courts said that it had to be optional through the states and so half of the states have jumped on the bandwagon and half of them have turned them down – I would like Utah be another one of those that turns that expansion down,” Christensen told the media. “There are those in both of the bodies that want something done, and not just plain turn down and say ‘no.’ My plan will provide access to healthcare through traditional Medicaid to the most needy.”
Christensen, who is chair of the Senate Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee, had a strong focus on on the financial costs associated with any sort of health care expansion.
“I am particularly aware of the cost,” Christensen said. “I want to provide the care to those who really, really need it and still provide some dollars left over in the budget to take care of those people who can possibly get along without it – like they have done forever – they have never been entitled to health care or food stamps or so many other social programs that are out there.”
[pullquote][That’s what] my colleagues are supporting – is do nothing at all. They don’t want more people put directly under government control. And health care, paid for by the government is government control. – Sen. Allen Christensen[/pullquote]Throughout the press conference, Christensen emphasized the cost of the Healthy Utah plan. “I have about $100 million in other social service requests, and Healthy Utah will take every available dollar from everywhere and leave nothing for all of those other people who really, truly need it…Once the bills are decided upon, then the Social Services Committee will have to deal with those appropriations. If we do Healthy Utah or another plan that is that expensive, that will save us a lot of debate on the other items because there won’t be any dollars left over for other requests.”
“I have been called a significant number of names for my cold heartedness,” as he referenced a recent ad campaign against Christensen and Representative Jim Dunnigan (Republican – Taylorsville) from Alliance for a Better Utah that is attacking the two lawmakers for not moving forward on Governor Gary Herbert’s Healthy Utah plan.
Senate President, Wayne Niederhauser (Republican – Sandy) was not as gun-ho on Christensen’s plan. “My objective is to try and find a way that we can cover the gap of those who are not insured,” Niederhauser noted. “Right now there is really only one viable possibility, and that is the Health Utah proposal – but I am not shutting the door on other options.”
When asked why Christensen would propose anything at all if cost is such a concern, he responded that “that’s what many of my colleagues are supporting – is do nothing at all. They don’t want more people put directly under government control. And health care, paid for by the government is government control.”
Senator Brian Shiozawa (Republican – Salt Lake City)
“One thing that I want to emphasize is that – we talk so much about the costs that come to the state, whether it is under a Healthy Utah plan or a plan that only covers 12 or 20 percent of the medically frail – but also part of that necessary discussion is how much more or less one particular plan will bring back to the state.”
Shiozawa noted that the 12 percent medically frail plan would return $300 to $330 million while while Health Utah would return $3.2 billion.
“That is a significant benefit to the state of Utah that will go to hospitals, providers, and the general economy and has the general downstream economic benefit as well.”
He would add that the state should look at the revenues, not just the costs.
“Of the choices, none of these are perfect, but this makes the best choice of the options we have been presented…One advantage of Health Utah is that so much of the groundwork has already been laid with the [federal] government.”
Leaders in the House and Senate are currently deciding if they should hold an unprecedented closed-door meeting of all Republicans in the legislature to discuss the fate of health care.