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Utah House Majority Leader Not Swayed by New Medicaid Expansion Report

Andrea Smardon
Dr. Sven Wilson and Dr. Jay Goodliffe of Notalys consulting group present their cost-benefit analysis on Medicaid expansion proposals at the Utah State Capitol.

A new analysis of Medicaid expansion proposals released Tuesday morning finds that Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s plan is the best deal for the state, but House Majority leader Jim Dunnigan says the report won’t affect his decisions moving forward.

The report was commissioned by local non-profits in favor of a full Medicaid expansion. It compared Governor Gary Herbert’s Healthy Utah plan with Utah Cares, a more limited alternative proposed by House Republicans during the last legislative session. The analysis found that the benefits of both plans outweighed the costs, but that Healthy Utah would cover more people while bringing six times the return on investment over a two year period. Sven Wilson is Chief Economist for Notalys, the consulting group that conducted the analysis.

“We hope this will focus the public attention on the fact that we have a really great opportunity to benefit the lives of people who are without insurance, and that this comes at a very low cost and very low risk for the state going forward,” Wilson says.

“Overall, I kind of felt like this is a rerun of a TV show that was on last season, and you know frankly I think we moved on,” says Utah House majority leader Jim Dunnigan, who dismissed the report as biased and redundant. Dunnigan is part of the so-called gang of six Republican lawmakers who are working on a new alternative plan to Medicaid expansion. The group was formed after the legislative session ended without an agreement. “I think the gang of six is actively trying to find a solution that is sustainable, respects the taxpayers and takes care of the folks in the coverage gap,” he says.

Dunnigan says the group wants a plan that protects the state from risk if costs turn out to be greater than expected, but that would need approval from the federal government. The group originally set a target for the end of this month to present a proposal, but Dunnigan says it’s unlikely the gang of six will meet that deadline.

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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