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House Speaker Criticizes Governor’s Health Plan, calls it Obamacare Expansion

Brian Grimmett
Utah House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart (R-64)

When Governor Gary Herbert laid out his Healthy Utah plan Thursday he said he was confident that it would get support from the state legislature as well as the federal government.  But the governor’s proposal to accept federal money to help low-income Utahns buy health insurance may meet some resistance from Republicans in the state House…. especially the House speaker.

Herbert was clear when he laid out his Healthy Utah Plan that he wants to accept federal dollars to help 111,000 Utahns buy insurance on the private market, but he does not consider it an expansion of Medicaid. House speaker Becky Lockhart begs to differ.

“As I’m looking at it, it appears to me to be full Obamacare expansion, by another name,” Lockhart says.

Herbert said he wanted the money in the form of a block grant, giving the state’s maximum flexibility. Lockhart says Herbert’s plan comes with obligations to the federal government and requirements to expand coverage. The plan does not require state funding for the first three years, but she says that could change.

“He’s asking for this waiver for three years, and then what? What happens to the 111,000 people that he proposes to cover?  Where does that money come from? It could very well come from the Utah taxpayers,” Lockhart says. She says it’s hard to say what members of the House majority caucus are all thinking at this point, but she’s guessing they may have some of the same concerns.

“I think it would be safe to say that the House is very resistant to getting the taxpayers involved in expanding a program with no assurance of what that might look like two or three years down the road,” Lockhart says.

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser says his caucus has not met yet to discuss the Governor’s plan, but when they met earlier this week, the group did not support a full expansion of Medicaid.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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