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"Healthy Utah" Dies in Committee, While "Utah Cares" Moves on to House

Brian Grimmett

Two opposing healthcare bills aimed at covering  the uninsured were heard in a House committee last night. Only one of them passed.

The line of people who came to support the Governor’s Healthy Utah Plan snaked around the room.  The hospital association, healthcare executives, even the Utah mining association, praised Senate Bill 164 for bringing the best return on investment to Utah. Private citizens like Grant Burningham, a small business owner in Bountiful pleaded with the committee to pass the bill - even if it only ends up being a 2-year pilot program.

“I have an untreated medical condition and I’m likely going to lose my voice. Quite frankly, two years will work for me because I’m probably going to get treatment and get back to work,” Burningham said.

But Republican Representative Jon Stanard of St George says when he polled his own constituents, a majority did not support the Governors’ plan. And he says there are too many unknowns about how much it might cost the state in the longterm.

“Passing Healthy Utah for two years with the intent of taking it away is immoral. And passing it for two years with the intent of keeping it is irresponsible, and I just don’t know how to get between the two of those.\,” Stanard said.

In the end, the bill received 4 votes of support and 9 opposed. Then House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan introduced his plan. HB 446 would expand the state’s existing basic healthcare plan for the poor known as the Primary Care Network. Critics called the plan inadequate. Alan Dayton, Vice President of Government Relations for Intermountain Healthcare, spoke in support of the bill, calling it a good reasonable compromise, but Representative Jon Cox questioned him.  

"Mr Dayton, I saw you on the last line up supporting the last bill," Cox said. :So you support both programs? Do you have a preference between the two?”

"We prefer the plan that passes,” Dayton quipped.

HB 446 passed out of committee 9 to 4. But the sponsor of the Healthy Utah bill Senator Brian Shiozawa says it’s not over yet. He hopes there is still room for compromise if Dunnigan’s bill passes the full House and makes it to the Senate. Lawmakers will have to act fast.  The legislative session ends next week. 

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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