Time Fleeting for Possible Medicaid Expansion Deal

Utah Senate leaders are still hopeful they can reach a compromise on Medicaid expansion before the end of the 2015 session, but time is running out.

With just three full days left on the Hill, Senate leaders say they're "still in the game" when it comes to Medicaid expansion, and they're hoping the House will come to the bargaining table.
"There's still time for some compromise, and we're hoping there will be some openness from the House and Governor," said Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy.
Right now, the only plan still alive is HB446, also known as "Utah Cares." That bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, is a leaner plan for Medicaid expansion that would extend coverage to fewer Utahns than the more robust Healthy Utah. That plan was killed in a House committee last week.
Niederhauser says the Utah Cares bill probably won't make it to the Senate in time for a committee hearing.
"It will probably come up on the floor. My read on it is that it will probably be like the 'frail Utah' bill (SB153). We haven't had any caucus discussion about it, but the votes would probably end up similar."
The "frail Utah" bill from Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, failed in the Senate on a 17-9 vote.
Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Cottonwood Heights, says right now the only viable option he sees right now is finding a compromise with the House.
"There are lots of ways to blend them (the two bills)," he said. "My preferred option is to begin with Healthy Utah for two years with a transition into Utah cares. That would be a great model for a compromise."
Shiozawa thinks that model could win support from the Senate, governor's office and possibly the House.
"We need to remember these are real people and real patients we're talking about. It's not just a financial decision."
Shiozawa says he has no plans for a "hostile takeover" of the bill in order to force the House to compromise. Rather, any changes to Utah Cares will likely come after consulting with Rep. Dunnigan.
Still, with fewer than 100 hours left in the 2015 session, it's becoming more and more likely lawmakers may leave the hill without passing anything, leaving the decision for another day.
"We're still optimistic about Medicaid expansion," said Niederhauser. "But if we don't get out of here with a decision, we know that discussion will continue."