SALT LAKE CITY — Doctors and hospitals providing emergency medical care to illegal immigrants would be able to seek reimbursement under a bill a House committee approved Wednesday.

HB165, sponsored by Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, would create an account in the Utah Department of Health to provide the payments, which legislative fiscal analysts estimate at $26.3 million a year.

"In passing this out favorably we're saying somehow we're finding a way to pay for this and I, in good conscience, can't do that," Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake, told the House Health and Human Services Committee.

The bill further proposes to establish a plan where the state would seek repayment for the medical treatment from the federal government. It calls for the attorney general to negotiate or litigate with the federal government.

The Utah Health Policy Project opposes the bill. Shanie Scott, Medicaid policy director, said the state has no legal basis to claim reimbursement from the federal government.

Before the hearing, Herrod called the proposal a "message bill" that he doesn't expect to go far. It now moves to the House floor.