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Utah lawmakers mull over verbose federal health reform regulations

Published: Thursday, July 30 2015 6:28 a.m. MDT

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  Utah lawmakers and health officials say the hundreds of pages released so far by the federal government explaining health care legislation regulations are confusing. (Associated Press) Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Utah lawmakers and health officials say the hundreds of pages released so far by the federal government explaining health care legislation regulations are confusing. (Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers and health officials say the hundreds of pages released so far by the federal government explaining health care legislation regulations are confusing.

"The flood of documents … is not encouraging, but confusing," said Utah Department of Health Executive Director Dr. David Patton. He said the department is doing its best to parse the proposed rules, looking specifically at the pros and cons of Medicaid expansion in Utah.

The state has yet to determine whether it will follow the federal mandate to expand access to government-funded health care options, such as Medicaid, but has asked for further guidance on how to implement the law.

On Friday, feds released another approximately 500 pages of proposed regulation dealing with the Affordable Care Act. Documents include dozens of pages of commentary ahead of proposed rules, making it a lot to read to get the full explanation of what is expected when health care reform is in full swing by 2014. About 450 pages of regulations were released prior to Thanksgiving.

"The silver lining of this is that these are just proposed rules, if there are enough comments (from the states), things could be revised," said Norm Thurston, health reform implementation coordinator with the Utah Governor's Office. He asked for stakeholders and others interested in the situation to provide input, so all voices can be heard.

"The more opinions, the better," Thurston said.

While it originally leaned toward providing states with flexibility to implement health care reform, Utah's Health System Reform Task Force Chairman Rep. James Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, said the federal government is now "becoming more and more prescriptive and is micro-managing the details" of how it is brought forth. The federal government allows a 30-day comment period on any documents released.

The task force will continue to meet up until the 2013 legislative session, when Utah lawmakers are expected to make multiple decisions regarding health care reform.

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