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Hatch bringing Senate Finance Committee to Utah for Medicaid hearings

Published: Tuesday, July 5 2011 4:54 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — The Senate Finance Committee will hold a field hearing in Utah later this month, a day before the nation's governors are gathering here for their annual meeting.

The July 14 hearing, which has not yet been formally announced, will focus on Medicaid, said Heather Barney, a spokeswoman for the committee's ranking member, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

She said the intent is to involve governors from around the country coming to Utah for the National Governors Association meeting set for July 15-17 at the Grand America hotel.

Gov. Gary Herbert is one of several governors already scheduled to testify before the committee, his spokeswoman, Ally Isom, said. Herbert, the new vice chairman of the Western Governors Association, will talk about the state's effort to contain Medicaid costs.

Utah currently is seeking a waiver from the federal government to exempt its Medicaid program from regulations on what patients can be charged and how providers are reimbursed.

The Senate is not releasing details about the hearing until it is officially noticed, likely later this week. A spokeswoman for the NGA said the hearing had no connection to the governors meeting.

Hatch has held other field hearings over the years in Utah as the chairman or ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barney said, including on Olympic security before the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

This time, though, Hatch is facing a tough fight in his bid for reelection next year. He has been targeted by the tea party and faces an increasingly likely challenge by a fellow Republican member of Utah's congressional delegation, Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

Dave Hansen, Hatch's campaign manager, said the hearing "is official Senate business and that's why he's doing it. ... This is not a campaign event or a political event in any way."

Hansen said the hearing was scheduled to take advantage of "the opportunity of having it when the governors are going to be here, and having the chance to talk to them and get their input."

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