Not by a vote or debate seen Monday.
By a 46-27 vote, with most of the freshmen Republicans – who some pre-general session experts believed would bring a more moderate nature to the House – voting “aye,” representatives passed HB391, a bill that would prohibit Utah from joining in Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.
GOP Gov. Gary Herbert has already asked the Legislature not to tie his hands on Medicaid expansion, a decision that by federal law he must make later this year.
He’s set up an expert panel to give him advice on the issue, and asked lawmakers to wait on judgment until hearing from the panel.
If the GOP-controlled Senate goes along with SB391, then Herbert could veto the bill.
And the House, at least in the vote Monday, is four votes short of the gubernatorial override number of 50 votes.
But that is down the road still.
Monday’s debate – cut short after an hour by leadership’s motion – shows a deep hatred by Utah GOP lawmakers of President Barack Obama’s health care plan, ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
And there was more than a little Mormon theology and societal leanings in the rhetorical offerings.
Rep. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine, a family doctor, recounted his LDS Church calling – four hours a week as a boy scout leader – and said he would welcome a three-or-four-year “mission call” to give four hours a week at charitable medical care – all to avoid the Medicaid expansion in Utah.
Kennedy said other doctors, LDS or not, would likewise give time and money to giving “charitable care” to the 131,000 additional Utahns who could get Medicaid coverage under Obamacare.
But the reality is that Utahns will be paying for the expansion whether Utah joins it or not.
For the first three years, the federal government will pay 100 percent. Then after that the match will be nine federal dollars for every $1 match by the state.
Several GOP House members said the federal government can’t be trusted to provide those dollars, and even if they do, it will only contribute to the massive federal deficit.
Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Salt Lake, asked who, in his or her own personal 401k plans, wouldn’t accept a 9-1 match? “I’d sure take that,” she said.
At it’s heart, said Poulson, HB391 “is yet another political statement” bill that ultimately won’t make a difference.
“If we refuse to expand Medicaid, we are refusing millions of dollars in federal funds” that will just go to other states, “depriving 131,000 needy Utahns the chance for life saving health care, that will be impossible to get through charitable care,” she said.
The federal expansion will cost $950 million in Utah over the next 10 years, and if the feds don’t provide the money, Utah state government can’t afford to come up with that money without raising taxes greatly or cutting back on more needy programs, like public education, GOP supporters of the bill said.
Rep. Jacob Anderegg, R-Orem, the sponsor of SB391, quoted biblical and LDS scripture and choked up in tears as he said Utahns are a unique people who will rise to the occasion to take care of their own.
“Catch my vision,” he said. “Come with me.”
Charitable care is a viable option “if you get the right people to the table, the right commitments.
“My vision is that county by county, we will step up and hear the call” to help more unfortunate Utahns, he added.
Despite the outcome of HB391, by UtahPolicy’s count 13 of the 20 GOP freshmen this year voted for the bill.
Thirteen GOP House members voted with all of the Democrats in the 27 who opposed the bill. But many of those Republicans aren’t freshmen, but incumbents with a varying amount of seniority.
Thus, on this bill at least, the freshmen didn’t adhere to the belief that they would bring a more moderate tone to the 2013 Legislature.