House Leaders Draw Lines Over Healthy Utah

In a set of op-eds that must leave Governor Herbert less than sanguine, Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes and Representative Dan McCay have spelled out their opposition to Healthy Utah.

Healthy Utah just passed the Utah Senate on a vote of 17 for and 11 against and is headed over to the House. With Hughes spelling out discrepancies between what Healthy Utah was projected to cost a year ago and what it’s being projected to cost now, it’s hard to see a clear path to passage for the Medicaid expansion in Utah.

Rep. Greg Hughes is Speaker-elect of the Utah House of Representatives.
Rep. Greg Hughes is Speaker-elect of the Utah House of Representatives.

A year ago, the Utah legislature was told that Healthy Utah would cost the state $40 million; just one year later that number had risen to $80 million. The overall cost of the program had gone from $400 million to $800 million, a staggering figure for a small state that is proposing to cover a sliver of the population, of which 70-75 percent already have access to some form of health coverage. If we were to expand, most of these individuals would lose the coverage they have and be forced onto Medicaid – a program not known for it’s great health outcomes.

And that’s the other elephant in the room: health outcomes. Throwing more money at this problem doesn’t address the cost of healthcare or the long-term effects on individuals, businesses, and the state budget.

Meanwhile, McCay says that passing Healthy Utah give up trying to stop poverty, sentencing many Utahns to a life of dependency on the government. He notes that “nearly 9 out of 10 new enrollees will be childless single adults with no disabilities, 45 percent of whom currently have private insurance[,]” people who don’t really need help from the government.

0w7WZAIxIn Utah we build lives, not bureaucracies. Many government programs are based upon the assumption that nothing more can be expected from or for some people. We must not give in to the politics of the lowest common denominator. Utah is better than that.

Healthy Utah has made it out of the Senate, with many supporters explaining their vote with “I don’t see anything better on the table.” As the bill heads over to the House, Republicans like Hughes and McCay are asking whether that’s a sufficient reason to expand Medicaid in Utah. With just two weeks to go in the session, the most intense fights may are likely yet to come.

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