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House Republicans Will Likely Thwart "Healthy Utah" Plan

Brian Grimmett
Utah House Chamber - File Photo

A bill modeled after Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s Medicaid expansion plan “Healthy Utah” passed the full Senate Wednesday. But the bill might be stalled in the House. 

Senate Bill 164 creates a pilot program that would make 60-70,000 Utah residents eligible for Medicaid coverage for the next two years. Lawmakers would have to reauthorize the program to continue beyond year two. The federal government would pay for almost all of it, but Republican Senator Deidre Henderson told the body it’s a financial commitment the state can’t make.

“We are using one-time money to fund an ongoing program. Yes, there is a sunset, but it’s not an easy thing to do to repeal a program.”

Should the program continue beyond the 2017 sunset date, federal support would taper off to 90 percent by 2020.

SB 164 will now sit idle until it’s assigned to a House committee. And it may not get that far says Republican House Speaker Greg Hughes.

“If there is an idea, If there is a way forward that someone wants to bring and that you can find collaboration and support, great,” Hughes says. “But healthy Utah as it’s been passed out of the Senate does not have legs in the House at all.”

Democratic Representative Brian King says that’s offensive, arguing it deserves at least a committee hearing.

“We need a full and fair process to consider this,” King says. “Especially this bill. This is one of the most important thing we’ve faced in Utah in many, many years.”

Healthy Utah is an alternative to full Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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