There has been an unfortunate misrepresentation about the process the House of Representatives has gone through in its consideration of the governor’s Healthy Utah plan. The news reports would have you believe that the speaker is unwilling to have the debate.
It is simply disingenuous to say that no debate has taken place. We have had it for months, much of it publicly and more extensively than we would have been able to have on the House floor. We have listened to presentations from representatives on all sides of the issue and have given members the resources needed to make a decision based on facts. More time has been spent on this issue than any other as we have sought to find a solution to the coverage gap created by the Affordable Care Act.
The Legislature’s Health Reform Task Force, after two years of study, announced in December that they would not be recommending Healthy Utah to the Utah Legislature. With this understanding, it was extremely irresponsible of the governor to not consider any alternatives. Within the House of Representatives there does not exist support for Healthy Utah but even now, two weeks from the end of the session, we continue looking for a solution.
Healthy Utah 2.0 is an expansion of the ACA, Obamacare, and would take many people who already have access to affordable health coverage and force them onto Medicaid. The governor has promised not to raise taxes to fund our $25 million portion of this “free” program for the next two years, even though:
• Our Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee was unable to fund tens of millions of dollars in requests last year, many for already existing programs that help sick, disabled individuals with no ability to work. Healthy Utah would expand this coverage to able-bodied, childless adults without addressing the problems of the current program.
• Just yesterday the legislature was informed that we need to come up with an additional and completely unexpected $22 million to pay for overruns in our current Medicaid system, $11 million ongoing and another $11 million in one-time funds.
Yet, the governor seems convinced that without raising any taxes we can find another $25 million behind the seat cushions to force scores of people off existing healthcare and place them on Medicaid. There is absolutely no certainty in this plan.
House leadership has presented at least three different plans over the last 12 months to address the needs of the most vulnerable in our society. Just this week we began considering a plan that would completely fill in the coverage gap without expanding Obamacare, and without pulling people off their private plans and forcing them onto Medicaid. There are still two weeks left in the session and we in the House are still working to find a Utah solution to a Washington-created problem.