SALT LAKE CITY -- A bill that would require the state to live by the same health insurance rules it imposes on small business is one step closer to reality.
SB 138, a measure passed Monday, would require the state to fund any health insurance mandates enacted after Jan. 1, 2012, for public schools, charter schools and state-funded higher education institutions in the Beehive State.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, passed the Senate 22-5 and now goes to the House.
Specifically, the bill would amend the state's Accident and Health Insurance Policy and require the state to appropriate the cost of implementing a health insurance mandate to participating employees in the state employees' risk pools, public school districts, charter schools and state-funded institutions of higher education.
Weiler said his concern in initiating the requirement is the potential impact any state insurance mandates may have in the business community.
"My real concern is what effect they will have on small business. Some small businesses may be forced to drop all health insurance," he said of the potential mandates.
Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, voted against the measure. He said he would be comfortable in dealing with mandates individually instead of grouping them all under the same funding requirement.
"All these need to be addressed on a one-by-one basis," he said of state mandates.
Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-Salt Lake City, said the bill is not about any individual mandate but rather about policy.
He said if it's correct policy for the state to require a company to pass certain rules, it is correct policy for state government as well.
Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, said the bill simply requires the state to determine the costs for any mandate and appropriate the money for its cost. Without the bill, he said, the state is not transparent.
"We're kidding ourselves if we think we can impose an insurance mandate and not fund it," he said, adding that the state needs to put its money where its mouth is.
Weiler, a freshman senator, said the bill has the support of the Utah School Board Association.
The bill is one of 14 health care-related measures currently before the Legislature.