Lawmakers have struggled over what to do about health care for several years now. In 2015, Governor Gary Herbert’s Healthy Utah proposal was defeated, as were a number of other proposals.
Senator Gene Davis (Democrat – Salt Lake City) has another solution for legislators to mull over that might sound familiar: full Medicaid expansion.
[pullquote]Governor Herbert has called for some form of health care expansion. Senator Gene Davis (Democrat – Salt Lake City) is offering the most economically sound and comprehensive plan available…and it doesn’t stand a chance.[/pullquote]Davis is sponsoring SB 77 – Medicaid Expansion Proposal, which requires the Utah Department of Health to amend the state’s Medicaid plan to expand Medicaid eligibility to the optional populations under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. ObamaCare). The bill also repeals a provision requiring the governor to comply with certain requirements before expanding Medicaid. Also included is the provision that Medicaid expansion will be repealed if federal funding decreases from the Affordable Care Act’s funding rates – a common sticking points among conservatives in the legislature, who often state that they would expand Medicaid, but worry that federal funds will dry up.
In his State of the State address last week, Governor Herbert called on the legislature to find a solution for Medicaid expansion. “I believe that the Affordable Care Act is a deeply flawed and unacceptable piece of legislation. But short of the opportunity to “repeal and replace,” which I would endorse, we have but one option–to make some kind of lemonade out the lemons we have been given,” Herbert told the body.
Public opinion is on the governor’s side as well. A poll conducted last month by Dan Jones & Associates shows that 70 percent of Utahns want some sort of Medicaid expansion passed during the current legislative session.
Fiscally, Medicaid expansion makes the most sense. The Healthy Utah plan will cost $236 million over five years, but $3.2 billion in Utah taxpayer dollars would be recouped. A scaled-down plan, which aims to cover only the “medically frail,” would cost approximately $203 million over six years. In this case, the federal government will only cover $611 million of the cost.
Does SB 77 have a chance of passing? Absolutely not. No chance. Not even a smidgen of hope. In a legislative body that is hostile to even a partial Medicaid expansion, the idea of full expansion succeeding is ludicrous. SB 77 rightly calls attention to the issue, but that is it. This bill is going to die, fiscal soundness be damned – a tragedy, considering that real people are really dying because of the legislature’s inaction.
To contact Senator Davis, click here or call 801-647-8924 (Cell).
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