SALT LAKE CITY -- State lawmakers think Utah can do a better job of managing Medicare and Medicaid funds than the federal government can.
A bill allowing the Beehive State to join in a compact with other states to petition Congress for local control of the health care programs passed the Senate 21-8 on Monday and now goes to the House for consideration.
Senate Bill 208 is sponsored by Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton.
"I've never seen anything Washington touches that we can't do better or more efficiently," Adams said of the measure.
He said the move would allow Utah to be at the forefront of potential change regarding health care control issues and that Utah ought to be on the cutting edge of any potential changes.
Several lawmakers were concerned the state was committing to a compact, not knowing who might eventually be part of the group.
A number of Southern states, including Georgia, Texas and Missouri, have moved to be part of the compact, but so far, few of Utah's Western neighbors have done so.
Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, wondered if it wouldn't be better to wait until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the legality of President Barack Obama's health care program in June or until after the November election.
"Is there any way we get off this train, if we know it's going to wreck?"
Adams notes the bill has an opt-out option and also has a five-year sunset.
Sen. Patricia Jones, D-Salt Lake City, wondered why the state would join with other states whose track record for health care management is worse than Utah's.
"Utah is known as having the best health care in the nation. Why take it upon ourselves to manage Medicare and Medicaid on our own in compact with lower-performing states?" she said.
"It's bound to cost us more in taxes or in lower services."
Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, chairman of the Senate's Health & Human Services Committee, sees the bill as a message bill, with few liabilities.
"It doesn't change the playing field. It asks Congress to let us control our own fate," he said.
Senate President Michael Waddoups supported the bill, saying he believes Utah would manage resources for the two federal programs better than Washington does.