Hughes and Herbert lobbied HHS Secretary Price about Medicaid waivers just hours before he resigned

Politics and government can have some surreal moments.

Take, for example, last Friday.

GOP Gov. Gary Herbert and Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, were back in Washington, D.C.

That afternoon they were meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price – asking, once again, for waivers so Utah’s much-scaled-back Medicaid expansion could get federal matching dollars.

Price seemed a bit distracted, Hughes recalled on Tuesday. Halfway through the meeting Price excused himself to take a call from the White House.

Less than an hour after the meeting ended, Hughes was back in his hotel room and turned on Fox News.

There was Price (presumably the studios were close enough to his office he didn’t have to take a private jet to get there).

Price – looking like he did an hour earlier – was saying he would personally pay back $54,000 in private jet costs he’d incurred flying around the country on taxpayers’ dime.

But that didn’t work. (There were media reports the amount was closer to $400,000 in private jet costs when staff flying with him was figured in.)

Later Friday night GOP President Donald Trump ordered his resignation.

The guy Herbert and Hughes were asking for waivers was gone.

“We still think we’re in good shape,” Hughes told UtahPolicy. There were plenty of mid-level staffers present in the Price meeting – taking notes, actually paying attention.

And Utah is pretty far down the road on the Medicaid waivers, anyway.

“I think we’ll have the waivers we need by the end of October,” said Hughes.

If so, an almost-2-year process will end, and $30 million in state funds (already put aside) will be matched with $70 million in federal money.

Many low-income needy Utahns will go on to the Medicaid rolls, including hundreds of homeless folks suffering from mental illness and drug addiction.

It’s a critical part of “Operation Rio Grande”  that Medicaid funds be found to help the homeless with all kinds of health issues – and Hughes has been a leader on the homeless issue.

So, it’s pretty good to score a personal meeting with the boss of a huge federal bureaucracy.

That is if he doesn’t get fired just hours after the meeting.