SALT LAKE CITY — The Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would direct the state health department to seek changes in Utah's Medicaid program from the federal government, including a work requirement for some recipients.
"I don’t think we are just giving a blank check to the Department of Health. We are giving them very clear guidelines to go implement the program," the sponsor of SB172, Sen. Dan Hemmert, R-Orem, said.
But several senators raised concerns.
"I've never seen a bill like this," said Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross.
Weiler said he's "a little uncomfortable" telling the state health department to come up with ideas and apply for federal waivers.
Senate Minority Assistant Whip Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, said she's concerned about the bill having a "really big impact on the way we deliver services to poor," particularly what she called the "punitive component" of the work requirement.1 comment on this story
The work requirement does not apply to recipients who are children, pregnant, disabled, aged, a primary caregiver or have recently left the foster care system and are under 21 years old.
The Sutherland Institute, a conservative Utah-based think tank, urged support for the bill at a recent committee hearing.
“We believe that welfare programs such as Medicaid should be designed to help people achieve a dignifying life of self-reliance through earned success, like we all strive for,” said the institute's vice president, Stan Rasmussen.
Senators voted 20-16 to send SB172 to the House.