Tom Smart, Deseret News
Utah State Capitol before Governor Gary R. Herbert delivers his 2012 State of the State address Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Senate passed SB208 Monday, a bill that would allow Utah to join an interstate compact to opt out of federal health care reform laws.

The bill, which passed the Senate on a vote of 21-8, now goes to the House.

Under the Healthcare Compact, the state would assume the federal funding for and oversight of programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program — or CHIP — under a block grant funding mechanism. Congress would have to give its approval to the states for the compact to take effect.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, in an earlier committee hearing, said the state could do a better job of administering the programs and that moving the programs closer to the people would save money that could be funneled into patient benefits and provider reimbursements.

"I've never seen anything Washington touches that we can't do more effectively and more efficiently," said Adams during debate on the Senate floor.

But some senators questioned the point of entering the compact before the Supreme Court rules on federal health care reform and knowing the outcome of the upcoming congressional elections.

"I think we should not be going alone," said Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake. "It does jeopardize benefits our seniors have worked for and paid into."

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