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Republican Lawmakers Still Not Sold on Governor’s Health Plan

Andrea Smardon
Utah House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan (R-39) and House Speaker Greg Hughes (R-51) speak to the media. (Jan. 26, 2015)

Governor Gary Herbert made the case for his Medicaid expansion plan this week, but fellow Republican lawmakers are still not convinced.

In his state of the state address, Governor Herbert insisted his Healthy Utah Plan is a responsible way to spend taxpayer money to help those in need.

“We can either watch our hard-earned tax dollars remain on the table in Washington DC, primarily benefiting other states, or we can bring back a significant amount of our own money to be spent on Utahns,” Herbert said.  

But House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan is concerned about the long-term costs. For the first few years, the federal government has pledged to pay 100 percent of the full cost of a Medicaid expansion. But by 2020, the state will be required to pay 10 percent of the cost. Dunnigan estimates that would be 80 million dollars out of the state budget.

“It’s challenging to say raises for teachers, which, by the way, I support, smaller class sizes, more technology, whatever you want, and say but we also need 80 million to expand Medicaid,” Dunnigan says. “Those are the tradeoffs.”

He says the governor’s office has promised to provide more budget details on his plan next week. In the meantime, he says Republican lawmakers are working on alternative proposals that would cover fewer people, but use less federal and state dollars.

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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