Press Release: House Democrats Point to Leadership Failures in Medicaid Expansion Debate

In anticipation of the closed-door caucus meetings of Utah House and Senate Republicans Tuesday, House Democratic Leader Brian King released the following statement:

“The closed-door caucuses scheduled for today are remarkable. Not only is the opinion of the majority of Utahns being completely ignored by Republican leadership in both caucuses, but the Representatives of nearly half a million people in our state are being intentionally kept in the dark about a law that will affect everyone. Most Utahns supported the Healthy Utah plan already agreed to by the Governor and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last year. So what are we waiting for?

We now know that this new bill is nowhere near finalized, that critical details are still being hammered out behind closed doors, and that hyper-conservative special interest groups are doing anything they can to keep Medicaid expansion from occurring. The specifics of any proposal are not being presented in the clear light of day. Why is that? During general session, Republican leadership was more interested in listening to Congressman Paul Ryan from Wisconsin as he discouraged the Utah House from expanding Medicaid. These extreme obstructionist voices from outside Utah do not reflect the interests or desires of Utahns as a whole.

In Utah, people care about people. Medicaid expansion can be implemented in a way that represents good public policy and takes care of those most in need. Democrats have four guidelines that will help us determine whether or not this plan is the plan that Utahns deserve.

  1. For a Medicaid expansion plan to be worthy of Democratic support we require that everyone up to 138% of the federal poverty level receive coverage. Period.
  2. There can be no discriminatory treatment in the coverage provided to people who are part of Medicaid expansion. What are acceptable minimum benefits for one group of individuals covered by Medicaid expansion must be acceptable for every member of the group.
  3. Funding for the state share of Medicaid expansion must be fair, rational, and not create a disproportionate burden for those providers willing to give medical treatment to those who need it most.
  4. Ignoring our federal partners and insisting on passing a piece of legislation that has not been guaranteed to succeed is a political ploy, and one we won’t stand for. Federal authorities need to be as involved in this process as thoroughly they had been for the Healthy Utah negotiations. This is a partnership with the federal government, as Republican leadership keeps reminding us. Yet they seem to forget that as a partnership, there needs to be conversation, negotiation, andagreement. Passing a plan before we know whether the federal government will sign off on it is putting the cart before the horse.

Utahns want Healthy Utah. The Gang of Six’s proposal, ill-formed and unready for prime time, is no Healthy Utah. Democrats in the Utah House and Senate understand the benefit that expanding Medicaid can provide to our communities. We are willing to fight for what is best for Utahns rather than settle for watered down or half cocked substitutes. That is what we were elected to do and we’ll do what is necessary to carry out that charge.”