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Healthy Utah, Utah Cares Medicaid Plans Go Head-to-Head

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House and Senate lawmakers say they will be discussing competing Medicare expansion plans as the 2015 Legislature winds down next week.

Competing House and Senate Medicaid expansion plans are now on the table, and that means state lawmakers have just four days to settle their differences on this major issue before the session ends.

Democrats carried the flag at week’s end for Gov. Gary Herbert’s Healthy Utah. They maneuvered on Friday to force a floor debate on the plan that House Republicans had sworn off.

Democrat Marie Poulson, who served on the Health Reform Task Force, described Utah Cares, the Republicans’ proposal, as a missed opportunity.

“We can do better,” she said. “We can care more. And Utah needs us to care more about the lives of our citizens than we do about making a political statement.”

Democrats argued Healthy Utah would serve more people and leverage more federal dollars.

But the Republican majority blocked them and pushed instead for passage of their own proposal. It would extend Medicaid or Primary Care Network to a total of around 46,000 more Utahns at a cost of around $32 million a year. Republican Jim Dunnigan represents Taylorsville. The sponsor of Utah Cares, he also served on the Health Reform Task Force.

“I invite you to join with me, advance the ball, adopt Utah Cares, help the people in the coverage gap,” he said, “and let’s move this forward.”

The House approved Dunnigan’s bill with new substance abuse and mental health provisions.

It now heads to the Senate for consideration. Leaders in both houses said late Friday they’ll be talking about the competing health care bills in the session’ s final week. 

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