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Utah Legislature: Lawmakers keep state on health reform path

Published: Tuesday, June 30 2015 10:56 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Another set of health care reform bills that will keep Utah moving down its own health care reform path, regardless of what Congress does this spring, were approved this session.

HB294 is the central piece of the 100 or so — the most ever — health-care-related measures considered this session.

Although the measure was sponsored by House Speaker Rep. David Clark, R-Santa Clara, it didn't have a completely smooth ride through the Legislature. The bill adds more girders to support the basic free-market, consumer-oriented restructuring of the state's health care system now in the third year of a decade-long process.

HB294 adds transparency so consumers can track positive and negative outcomes of procedures, expands and refines the pilot Web-based health care exchange and adds a caveat for health care insurance carriers to ensure they develop plans that will allow significant portions of Utah's 300,000 uninsured to be able to buy into a plan.

A few veteran lawmakers blanched at language in the measure to "hold the insurance industry's feet to the fire," as Clark called making sure that carriers develop plans that they have committed to make available by 2013. Establishing a new risk adjuster sounded to some lawmakers uncomfortably like the forced risk sharing that is central to nationalized medical care systems in Europe, as well as counter to the free market principals that Utah reformers have made central to the state's health care overhaul.

Clark assured fellow lawmakers and reiterated Thursday in a news conference that adding an adjuster to make sure insurers aren't "gaming" the system by not sharing high-cost customers equally is a step he needed to take.

"This is nothing more than invoking the Reagan approach of 'trust but verify,' " he said. "If they comply by 2013, I will have that section repealed."

Two less controversial measures basically telling the federal government to keep its hands off Utah's reform efforts and Utah's hands off federal health care reforms were approved late in the session. Utah is among 34 states that have taken the anti-federal government stance.

HB67 prohibits the implementation of any health care reform proposals, as well as any requirement for any individual in Utah from being required to purchases health insurance, if the mandate is part of federal health care reform.

HCR8 is a "Utah knows best" resolution that urges Congress in no uncertain terms to stay out of Utah's health reform effort.

e-mail: jthalman@desnews.com

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