Anti-Medicaid Expansion Groups Bombarding Lawmakers

Utah GOP legislators are getting bombarded with telephone calls and emails opposing any Medicaid expansion, UtahPolicy has learned.

And while no one is explicitly taking credit for the organized opposition, the fingerprints of Americans for Prosperity are on the contacts, several Republican legislators believe.

Several House GOP members agreed to speak to UtahPolicy on condition their names wouldn’t be used – the lawmakers didn’t want to offend AFP-Utah any more than necessary.

Here is the Americans for Prosperity Utah site, where you can read more about their opposition to Medicaid expansion, the quarter-cent sales tax hike for roads and mass transit and other issues they are involved in the Beehive State.

Americans for Prosperity was formed by the Koch brothers, who have said they will spend nearly $1 billion on elections over the next few years.

“I’ve gotten a number of blocked I.D. phone calls over last week, even more today,” one GOP legislator said.

He recognized several names of constituents in his district – meaning the organization behind the contacts have narrowed down the incoming calls to at least the House district level.

Tuesday afternoon/evening Republicans in the House and Senate will meet in closed caucuses to learn details of the “Gang of Six” Medicaid expansion proposal.

Perhaps as early as Oct. 16 GOP Gov. Gary Herbert could call lawmakers into a special session to vote on the “Gang of Six” recommendation.

After Herbert’s own Healthy Utah expansion plan was killed in the House last session, Herbert formed the gang, who include himself; Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox; House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper; Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy; House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville; and Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Cottonwood Heights.

A framework of the gang’s ideas was made public several weeks ago, which includes imposing a special tax/fee on Utah’s health care industry which each year would raise what would be the state’s 10 percent share to get ObamaCare’s 90 percent Medicaid expansion costs, available to folks making up to 138 percent of poverty income.

Hughes recently told UtahPolicy that he will expect 38 votes – a majority in the 75-member House – from his own caucus before he’ll call for an expansion vote. He doesn’t want Democrats to hold their votes hostage for any expansion changes to the GOP proposal.

One GOP House member said he got an AFP mailer several weeks ago and then started getting emails and phone calls mimicking that flier’s message and language.

“It is pretty clear to me where this is coming from,” he told UtahPolicy. “It’s from the same group” – Americans for Prosperity.

And there’s organization and money behind it, he said.

Compared to a deluge of organized email/phone call campaigns against Medicaid expansion coming during the 2015 general session, the newest hits are a bit less intense, he said.

But for an out-of-session organized hit, this one is pretty large, he added.

One of the text messages says it comes from FGA Action, a Florida group that has little information about it on its website.

AFP and FGA couldn’t be reached Monday for comment.

Said another GOP House member: “Right now we’re hearing just from one side” of the Medicaid expansion argument – those against it.

“The pro-side, well, I haven’t been hearing much from them.”