When news emerged that Healthy Utah would not be debated or voted on in the House, pundits, Democrats and the Governor’s proxies began to express shock and dismay.
Why not give it a chance to get a hearing? The bill deserves a chance to be debated!
It’s disingenuous to pretend like there’s not been a debate in the public for over a year, if not more. No other issue has seen more push polling, marketing, and out-of-state interest group advocacy than Healthy Utah. Governor Herbert has put his full effort and brand behind the plan, sending Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox to the Hill and the press to support and Healthy Utah’s passage.
In short, anyone paying attention could see this coming from a country mile away.
No one has expected the bill to pass the House, and everyone following the bill was aware that it never would make it to the House floor. Anyone who says otherwise just isn’t paying attention or is grandstanding.
It didn’t just appear on the horizon this session. It’s been floating around, in its various iterations, for a couple of years (if not more).
More recently, in this session Utah Senators have been admitting that they knew that the House did not have the votes to pass Healthy Utah. Even as one touted the merits of full Medicaid expansion and derided various House efforts to provide an alternative plan as “Feeble Utah,” he acknowledged that he knew the House Republican caucus had already met and would never have enough support. He was not alone: other sources acknowledged the difficulty the House was having finding enough votes, with multiple sources expressing that they knew support was well under fifty percent.
And that’s just hearsay. Let’s instead look at the extensive public record, it’s been clear that Healthy Utah would struggle to get to the House floor.
One need look no further than the public statements, committees, and op-eds that have appeared in the last year to know that the House has never had the appetite to expand Medicaid under Herbert’s Healthy Utah plan.
Notably, in mid-December of 2014 the Utah legislature’s Health Reform task force voted not to recommend Healthy Utah. Instead, it opted to support a plan that would cover 50,000 Utahns who are uninsured and fall in the Medicare coverage gap.
In an op-ed on Monday of this week, Representative Dan McCay spelled out reasons that he did not support Healthy Utah, saying that it pulls people off of private insurance coverage, that the costs aren’t fully known, and that Medicaid is a broken program. McCay is a tough guy, but he would never get so far out in front of the House without knowing that the bill wasn’t going to pass.
Finally, there was the nail in the coffin. Speaker Greg Hughes, rather than pretend like the Healthy Utah bill would eventually appear in a committee for review, put chisel to granite and carved out a tomb stone. The bill presented is more expensive that the Legislature was told last year (from $40 million to $80 million), enrolls more people than we were told last year, and does not include a work requirement promised to the House.
If the votes aren’t there, the votes aren’t there.
It’s what we’ve always known, and like it or not, the evidence is all over the public record.
Instead of expressing mock shock, advocates of covering uninsured Utahns would do better to work with House Leadership to find a solution palatable in the people’s chamber. There are those in Utah who need better healthcare insurance coverage, and the Utah Legislature has a role to play. Pretending like Healthy Utah ever had a chance, though, or that it is the only option, does little to move the ball forward. It’s just politics as usual.