Don’t Expect Much Movement on Medicaid Expansion this Year

There will be no debate in the Utah Senate this year on GOP Gov. Gary Herbert’s Healthy Utah Medicaid expansion plan, at least as far as Senate President Wayne Niederhauser is concerned.

Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake, has introduced SB77, which is full Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.

“That’s going nowhere,” Niederhauser, R-Sandy, told UtahPolicy.

No great surprise there.

But last year Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Cottonwood Heights, introduced Herbert’s Healthy Utah – which would draw down hundreds of millions of dollars in federal Medicaid matching funds into a Medicaid expansion plan.

It passed the Senate, with help from Senate Democrats, but stalled in the Utah House after the GOP caucus refused to support it.

An attempt by House Democrats to place the senator’s plan into a House Medicaid expansion bill failed after a short, heated debate on the House floor last session.

So Healthy Utah, in that vote, failed on the House floor.

Shiozawa is not re-introducing his bill this year.

Rep. Raymond Ward, R-Bountiful, has introduced HB302, which is Healthy Utah with some minor modifications, this session.

A doctor, Ward supported Healthy Utah last year.

Said Niederhauser, “We will wait” to see what the House sends the Senate in the way of Medicaid expansion this year.

“No, we won’t debate” Healthy Utah again, there is no point, said the Senate president, because it appears there are not the votes for it in the House.

And another Healthy Utah debate would just take the time that can be dedicated to bills that may actually pass the Legislature.

Ward told UtahPolicy that Healthy Utah “should be an alternative” before the House.

But if he were a betting man, he wouldn’t put any money on HB302.

House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, has yet to formally introduce his GOP House alternative – which admittedly will not take federal Obamacare expansion funds and will not provide health insurance to as many low-income Utahns than Healthy Utah would.

“I will enthusiastically support” the Dunnigan bill if HB302 doesn’t pass, said Ward.

“It is by far better that we do something” in Medicaid expansion “than nothing – which is what we are doing now,” Ward said.