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House committee approves Medicaid expansion alternative

Published: Monday, Feb. 24 2014 10:56 p.m. MST

A state-funded alternative to taking federal money for the Medicaid expansion available under the Affordable Care Act was approved by a House committee Monday on a party-line vote. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) A state-funded alternative to taking federal money for the Medicaid expansion available under the Affordable Care Act was approved by a House committee Monday on a party-line vote. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A state-funded alternative to taking federal money for the Medicaid expansion available under the Affordable Care Act was approved by a House committee Monday on a party-line vote.

The House Business and Labor Committee voted 11-3 to give a favorable recommendation to HB141 after the health reform amendments bill was substituted to include the plan backed by House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo.

Only Democrats on the committee opposed the bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, which forgoes more than $500 million in federal funding for Medicaid expansion in favor of using state money for limited coverage.

"It seems like we're walking away from millions of dollars," Rep. Larry Wiley, R-West Valley City, said.

Wiley said the plan, presented last week to the House GOP caucus, "in my mind, throws away a lot of money."

But Rep. Dean Sanpei, R-Provo, who authored the plan with Dunnigan, said it gives Utah the flexibility to limit health care assistance to the neediest Utahns, those considered medically frail and those who have children.

Sanpei said the coverage will depend on how much money lawmakers decide to appropriate for the plan. The price tag has been estimated at $30 million to $35 million over each of the next two years.

That money, Sanpei said, will cover some if not all of the nearly 60,000 Utahns earning below the federal poverty level who don't qualify for subsidies under Obamacare or Medicaid unless the state accepts the expansion.

The level of coverage, he said, will not equal what's available under Medicaid, but it allows the state to offer those who need more care more assistance while providing less or none to others.

Rep. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, said nearly 80 percent of his constituents don't want any expansion of coverage, calling Medicaid expansion heading "down the socialized medicine pathway."

Anderegg said the plan is a good first step for the state by providing for what he termed the poorest of the poor, "but it doesn’t carte blanche throw money at everybody."

Gov. Gary Herbert has called the plan "illogical."

The bill now goes to the House.

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