Medicaid Expansion Battle Taking a Toll

The fight over Medicaid expansion is clearly taking a toll on legislative leadership and Gov. Gary Herbert.

At his latest media availability, Herbert looked and sounded every bit like a man who had been hit by a legislative Mac truck.
"I'm disappointed, but it is what it is," he said referencing the failure of Healthy Utah in a House committee on Wednesday night. "I'm not dead yet. I'll continue to fight for the taxpayers of Utah. Talks go on."
House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, also looked weary of the subject during his media time on Thursday afternoon. He makes no bones about the fact that he's tired of talking about the subject. 
"I hoped to talk a bit about transportation funding, but I’m giving up on that," he said. "It will be Medicaid right through the last night."
It's unclear what will happen next in the battle. The Utah Cares plan is waiting for a vetting in the House. Normally, it would be a safe bet that House leadership won't let the issue come up for a vote unless they have enough support in the GOP caucus for it to pass. So much political capital has been spent in the fight; it would be a supreme embarrassment for it to fall on the House floor. 
If it is going to pass, it will have to be on the backs of Republicans. House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, confidently said his caucus was united in their opposition to Utah Cares.
"Not one single vote from my caucus will go to pass Utah Cares," he said. "We've had some people approach us trying to sell us on the benefits of Utah Cares, but that's just not something that we can support."
The Governor still thinks his plan, which was defeated by the House, is the best option out there.
"Where's the money going to come from for Utah Cares?" he asked. "We think they've underestimated the number of people who will sign up for their program in the second year. Where is that number going to come from? Education? Transportation? Money to move the prison? They're not thinking long-term."
Herbert seems hopeful he will be able to find a compromise between his Healthy Utah plan and Utah Cares. But what happens if lawmakers leave the Hill next Thursday night without coming to a compromise and no program is in place?
Herbert says he's willing to call a special session to try again.
That's probably incentive enough for lawmakers to push through something, anything on Medicaid expansion in order to avoid revisiting the issue. Otherwise, they'll have to tread over this well-worn ground again. And, as everybody knows, the sequel is often not as good as the original.