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Lawmaker to Medicaid Expansion Advocates: "Don't Give Up"

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Andrea Smardon
/
KUER
Senator Brian Shiozawa (R-8) tells Medicaid expansion advocates not to give up. (Feb. 24, 2016)

With just about two weeks left in the legislative session, it’s not clear if anything will get done on expanding Medicaid this year.

It’s been three years since state lawmakers were first faced with the choice of whether to expand Medicaid. So far, lawmakers have failed to pass any legislation.  Some old familiar faces and some new ones came Wednesday to the Capitol to once again call for healthcare coverage for low-income Utahns. Republican Senator Brian Shiozawa gave them a pep talk.

“I hope you’re not tired,” he said. “We’re weary of hearing the question, why haven’t we done anything?” Shiozawa, who sponsored a bill in support of Governor Gary Herbert’s Healthy Utah plan last year, told the crowd not to give up. “We have a coverage gap that we can do something about that for some reason we in the legislature have failed to do. Now we have the opportunity and we can take that bold step.”

Democratic Senator Gene Davis is sponsoring a bill for a full Medicaid expansion. It passed in a legislative committee, but several Republicans like Senator Daniel Thatcher said even though they want to do something to address the issue, they may not support this bill in the end.

“I can’t promise that I can support this on the floor, and even if we do, I don’t know where we’re going to come up with the money in a year where we’ve got a budget shortfall in the general fund,” Thatcher said.

If the bill does makes it through the Senate, House leaders have indicated that it would not pass there. House Speaker Greg Hughes told KUER earlier in the session that the bill with the best chance is sponsored by House Majority leader Jim Dunnigan. The proposal would cover fewer people, and it puts a cap on state costs, but he says, even that is a tough sell this year. 

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