House Speaker Greg Hughes says, with the defeat of the latest Medicaid expansion plan, the chase for federal money to expand access to healthcare has ended.
"The politics are we can't get right with the federal government with the risks they want us to assume," said Hughes in an interview with UtahPolicy.com. "It was a hard pill for us to swallow. There is no revenue source for it."
Hughes says lawmakers are caught in a catch-22 when discussing how to crack the Medicaid expansion code.
"When we talk about getting back the federal dollars we've paid out in taxes for the Affordable Care Act, and the restrictions the federal government puts on that, people then point to the human factor and accuse us of letting people suffer and go without healthcare. So, we start talking about how we can help people, the critics then say we're not taking advantage of those federal dollars we're leaving on the table."
From the start of the process, Hughes has insisted that the Republican Caucus in the House needs to come up with 38 votes, which is enough to pass any plan on the floor. Critics say Hughes is blocking health care reform and cutting the 12 House Democrats out of the process. Hughes says that's not the case.
"Since I've been on the hill, a caucus position has always been 38 votes. However, that position never decides what is voted on the floor. The Speaker of the House does not decide what is going to be debated on the floor. Plenty of bills make it to the floor without a caucus position."
Hughes says there's a way to provide healthcare for the needy in Utah, but it won't be as rich and robust as the federal plan.
"I think we get something done in the 2016 session. However, the chase for federal dollars has ended. That doesn't mean the work to provide healthcare for those who need it won't continue."