Governor's staff begins negotiations on Medicaid expansion plan

Published: Monday, March 17 2014 6:10 p.m. MDT

Gov. Gary Herbert offers his own "Utah solution" to Medicaid expansion during a press conference at the Capitol on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. Representatives from Gov. Herbert's office are in Washington, D.C. this week for a series of introductory meetings regarding the governor's Medicaid expansion plan.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Representatives from Gov. Gary Herbert's office are here in the nation's capital this week for a series of introductory meetings regarding the governor's Medicaid expansion plan.

Wesley Smith, the governor's director of state and federal relations, David Patton, head of the Utah Department of Health, and staff members from the state health department's Medicaid office are starting negotiations for the plan that Herbert proposed last month.

Meetings with members of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are expected to take place Tuesday and Wednesday, laying the groundwork for Herbert's proposed solution to funding Medicaid expansion, according to the governor's office.

Herbert, who said last week that he feels optimistic about the proposal, is expected to travel to D.C. in April to continue the discussion.

His Healthy Utah plan, a three-year pilot program that would cost $258 million in its first year, would seek a block grant from the federal government to cover about the same number of needy Utahns as accepting the full expansion of Medicaid offered under the Affordable Care Act.

Instead of receiving Medicaid, the estimated 111,000 Utahns earning less than $15,500 a year would each pay about $420 a year toward private insurance and medical expenses under the Healthy Utah plan.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government has said it would fully fund expansion in states that opt in, decreasing federal funding to 90 percent after the first three years.

The governor has said a special legislative session addressing Medicaid will likely be called later this year. Medicaid proposals from both the House and Senate did not advance before the Utah Legislature closed its session last week.

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com

Twitter: McKenzieRomero

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