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Lawmaker Proposes “Frail Utah” Instead of Governor’s Healthy Utah Plan

Brian Grimmett
Governor Gary Herbert speaks to the press. (Feb. 5, 2015)

A Republican lawmaker has filed a bill that would be an alternative to Governor Gary Herbert’s Medicaid expansion plan.

Senator Allen Christensen’s bill SB153 would provide health coverage for those who are below 100 percent of the poverty level, and considered to be medically frail. That means they have an existing physical or mental health condition, and are considered vulnerable to becoming disabled.

“My plan is covering those that truly need it with the dollars that are available,” Christensen says.

Governor Herbert’s Healthy Utah Plan would extend coverage to people up to 138 percent of the poverty level whether they have an existing condition or not. Christensen argues tax dollars would be wasted giving people coverage they don’t need, and expanding government unnecessarily.  

“We cannot afford the governor’s plan,” he says. “I’ve got a stack of people, probably 50 different groups that are just screaming for money, and the governor’s plan will take all of it.”

Governor Gary Herbert says Senator Christensen’s bill would provide coverage for only about 16,000 Utahns, while his plan would cover more than 140,000. As for the cost, Herbert disagrees that his plan is unaffordable. If you compare the 2 plans over six years, Herbert says the amount of state dollars used would be similar, but his plan would use more federal money, bringing more tax dollars back to the state.

“You can compare and say for basically the same cost out of our Utah taxpayers, one program gets back 600 million dollars, the other program gets back 3.2 billion. You do the math,” Herbert says.

The governor says he’s optimistic that he and the legislature will come to an agreement this session.

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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