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Legislators Talk with Feds about Alternative Medicaid Proposals

Brian Grimmett

Republican state lawmakers held a conference call last week with federal government officials to talk about possible alternatives to Governor Gary Herbert’s Medicaid expansion plan. They did not include the governor on this call.

After months of negotiations, the US Department of Health and Human Services gave preliminary approval to the governor’s plan to expand Medicaid for those up to 138 percent of the poverty level. But late last week, Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes and other Republican lawmakers held their own conference call with HHS. Hughes confirmed to reporters Monday that state lawmakers are looking at proposals that would cover a smaller portion of Utahns.

“We’re looking within those that are poor or within 100 percent of poverty to say what can we do? We’re just getting feedback on those fronts,” Hughes says.

The main concern for Republicans in the House and Senate is the long-term financial commitment for the state. While lawmakers are fleshing out different proposals, Hughes says they don’t want an adversarial relationship with the governor. 

“I think there is an understanding that whatever we want to arrive at, it’s going to take all of us to do it together. So this isn’t competing with the governor,” Hughes says. “We need the governor’s support so he doesn’t veto the bill.”

Hughes says Governor Herbert’s Healthy Utah plan is not entirely off the table and new details on how it would be paid for could influence the discussion. He says he senses a political will to do something this year, but what that is exactly remains to be seen.

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