Governor Gary Herbert is in Washington D.C. Monday meeting with outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about his plan to help low income Utahns get health insurance.
Governor Herbert is asking the federal government to give Utah the money intended for Medicaid expansion in the form of a block grant that the state would use to run their own program called Healthy Utah. This program would help low income Utahns that don’t qualify for Medicaid but also don’t qualify for subsidies under the affordable care act to purchase health care. But in order to do this the state would need to get a waiver from the Obama administration. The Governor’s spokesman, Marty Carpenter, says Monday’s meeting is just another step in that process.
“So he’s back there meeting with Secretary Sebelius helping to better explain what his goals are, more of the details of the Healthy Utah plan, help them understand how we share a common goal in this sense, and hopefully move us a bit closer to eventually having an agreement,” he says.
Last week Secretary Sebelius announced that she would be stepping down from her position at the department of Health and Human Services. The timeline for when she will officially leave has not been set. Carpenter says while the announcement complicates things, ultimately any deal reached about the Medicaid funds will be with the White House.
“He continues to take President Obama at his word, that he’s willing to work with states to increase flexibility to make sure that we get those living in poverty and around the poverty line taken care of,” he says.
Herbert says he hopes to reach an agreement sometime this summer, and will likely call a special session of the legislature soon after to begin implementation of his plan.