Healthy Utah heads toward probable stall in divided House

Michael A. Kruse
Captital west News

SALT LAKE CITY- A plan to close the health insurance coverage gap is one step closer to becoming law, but Utah’s House speaker doesn’t say it has much chance of getting the necessary 38 votes to pass.

SB164, a bill that is modeled after Gov. Gary Herbert’s Healthy Utah plan passed the Utah Senate. The plan would cover 65,000 to 70,000 Utahns who are uninsured.

The bill Sponsor’s Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Salt Lake, plans to cover those who can’t currently get insured. This plan would go for two years.

“You have all of these tens of thousands of patients who have nothing in terms of health insurance. Who need something.” Shiozawa told his fellow Senators on the floor.

Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake, proposed a substitute that would been full medicaid expansion arguing that Healthy Utah doesn’t not do enough to cover those people making $15,000 a year. The motion was shot down by fellow senators, however Davis still voted for the bill saying some coverage is better than none.

Sen. Luz Escmilla, D- Salt Lake, voted for the bill saying that even two years for someone who hasn’t insurance can mean a lot.

“It is shameful for those of us who have the best insurance in the state to talk about people who have no Insurance,” Escmilla said.

Critics of the bill cited cost and governmental overreach.

Sen. Mark Madsen, R- Saratoga Springs, said he will not do anything to add to the burden of federal debt. “I want to look my grandkids in the eye and tell them I did nothing to add to the debt they are burdened with.”

The bill now heads to the House where it faces an uphill battle.

House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, told reporters there isn’t support in the House to the pass the bill. He said too many members of the house have questions about the bill and are uncertain about costs or other hidden strings that may be attached.

Rep. Francis Gibson, R- Mapleton, said federal officials keep changing the concessions they’re willing to make which adds to his uncertainty. “It’s a moving target,” he said.

Hughes said that people who would be left out without insurance should blame the federal government.

“I don’t understand how when the federal government rejects every proposal we’ve made, we get seen as unreasonable,” Hughes said.

He said with only a 45-day session the government not making concessions.

“Time is against us,” Hughes said. “We’ve had Medicaid in it’s traditional form for a long time, and I haven’t heard this kinda of cry for compassion until we started talking about this kind of a dollar amount.”

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