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Lawmakers Set Course for Medicaid Decision

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Wednesday night, the Utah Senate guaranteed that Governor Gary Herbert will play a key role in deciding if the state will expand its Medicaid program. Lawmakers in both chambers approved  a substitute bill that now sets guidelines for how the Governor will make his decision.

House Bill 391 was originally designed to prohibit the Governor from expanding Medicaid in Utah.  It passed the House, but Senate leaders said they would not support it.  Republican Senator Todd Weiler of Woods Cross introduced a substitute bill that frees the governor to decide whether to expand Medicaid, but only after public release of an independent cost study.  Then if the Governor opts to expand, he would have to seek funding approval from the Legislature. 

“I don’t know why we want to tie our hands right now while the landscape is still shifting,” said Weiler, “This bill I think puts in a proper procedure, it allows the process to happen, it allows us to receive our reports.  Let’s slow down, take a breath and do it the right way whatever the result is going to be.”

Democrats including Luz Robles supported the change. 

“I guess I’m able to breathe better now, and I applaud all the members of the Senate for taking an evidence-based, educated approach.  This is the right way to do things,” said Robles.

Democrats said they wanted more public input in the process, and questioned the viability of charity care alternatives, which the bill specifies should have a "thorough analysis" by the legislative Health Reform Task Force.  The bill passed unanimously in the Senate, and later in the evening the House passed the amended version on a vote of 51-23. The bill now awaits the signature of Governor Herbert.

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