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Politics
3:05 pm
Tue March 12, 2013

House Advances Legislation Blocking Medicaid Expansion

The Utah House of Representatives on Monday advanced legislation aimed at blocking federal Medicaid expansion in the state under the Affordable Care Act.

Medicaid expansion in Utah would provide $152 million in new federal funding to Utah health care services in 2014, and nearly $4 billion over 10 years. But Republican Representative Jacob Anderegg, of Lehi, says that the cost of the program isn’t worth the benefits derived.

Anderegg is sponsoring a bill to ban the expansion of the program in the state. Federal Medicaid expansion has been a contentious part of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. In a 2012 ruling on the new healthcare law, the Supreme Court gave states the choice to participate in the program, and Governor Herbert says his office is currently studying the issue.

During debate on the House floor this morning, Anderegg implied that if Governor Gary Herbert signed on to the expansion, he would be acting like a dictator.

“There was a reason the legislature was vested with appropriations powers. So that one person couldn’t unilaterally make dictatorial decisions.  My colleagues there’s a better way. My vision is companies diverting some of their money that they would send to Mexico or South America or Africa to build schools, which are all noble pursuits – diverting that money to the clinics close to home. ”

But Democrats in the House said that without the expansion, Utah’s underserved communities would suffer. Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houk sponsored a bill aimed at preparing the state for Medicaid expansion – but that legislation was passed over by the House earlier in the session. She challenged Representative Anderegg’s assertion that volunteer service from doctors could take the place of increased Medicaid coverage.

"I would argue that his proposal for charity care is something that has yet to be proven. I doubt that it would work. He talks about a vision. Well, I’ve not seen that vision in practice in a mass application where it would cover the number of people that are in so desperate need of health care and health services and health coverage. ”

Janida Emerson, Public Affairs Manager for the Association for Utah Community Health, said that she was disappointed the measure passed, but that her organization would work to try to prevent its passage in the Senate. 

“I would argue that his proposal for charity care is something that has yet to be proven. I doubt that it would work. He talks about a vision. Well, I’ve not seen that vision in practice in a mass application where it would cover the number of people that are in so desperate need of health care and health services and health coverage. ”

The measure to ban Medicaid expansion passed the House on a vote of 46 to 27.  It will be heard in the Senate sometime this week, as the 2013 legislative session comes to a close.