Up to this point, the fight over Healthy Utah and Medicaid expansion has been between Gov. Herbert and Republican lawmakers. Now a Democratic Senator is offering up a third option – full Medicaid expansion.
Sen. Gene Davis (D-Salt Lake City) has introduced SB 83, which would have the state accept full Medicaid expansion from the federal government.
"This is an economic issue," says Davis. "There's over $600 million in tax money we're sending to the federal government. If we bring that money back to the state, it goes right into the economy."
Gov. Gary Herbert has been negotiating with the federal government over his Healthy Utah alternative. Originally the state estimated there would be 67,000 Utahns covered by Healthy Utah. When Herbert brought the plan to lawmakers, the number of Utahns who would be covered ballooned to nearly 100,000. That number gave lawmakers heartburn, and the Healthcare Reform Task Force rejected Healthy Utah, opting to recommend a modest expansion for the medically frail.
Davis says while the legislature fights over the Governor's alternative plan, Utahns remain without health insurance.
"These are people who deserve coverage. Think about the single mom who is working for minimum wage with two kids. We need to make sure they are getting coverage."
Davis knows his bill is probably a non-starter, but he wants to be part of the conversation this session.
"The 24-hour news cycle has demonized healthcare, and that's why we're having this debate. Gov. Herbert got 95% of what he wanted from the federal government for his Healthy Utah plan. It makes no sense to me that we're willing to walk away from that. But, since we are, we should have all options on the table."