SALT LAKE CITY — State lawmakers have defused a potential divide with the governor’s office on the expansion of Medicaid to as many as 130,500 low-income Utahns.
The Senate pulled a controversial bill, HB 391, from the rules committee early Wednesday night and unanimously approved the heavily amended legislation, taking away language challenging the governor to turn down the federal offer to expand the program.
Later in the evening, the House voted 51-23 to concur on the revised bill after 10 p.m.
The hot rhetoric against the federal program was taken out of the final version headed to the governor’s desk.
Rep. Jacob Anderegg, R-Orem, who had revised the original legislation in committee, was much quieter in his appeal to concur on the revision than he had been earlier in the week when he pushed the bill through the House for the first time.
“It’s compromise. It’s not a complete cutoff,” Anderegg said of the bill.
The final bill calls for the governor to receive a report on the expansion from a health care task force and private vendor before making the expansion decision.
If a decision is made to expand the program, the legislation calls on Gov. Gary Herbert to come back to the Legislature for funding approval.
Implementation of the Affordable Care Act — “Obamacare” — would expand Medicaid benefits to more low-income residents in the state.
The state would potentially save money, in the short term, extending the program with the implementation of the new health care program. Utah is one of five states that hasn’t made a decision on Medicaid expansion.
Herbert has said he wants to take a slow, studied approach to the issue.
The expansion could, in the short term, save the state some funding for the federal program. A legislative fiscal analyst estimated the expansion could save the state $6 million in the first year and nearly $16 million in the second year.
Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, suggested Herbert not wait too long to make a decison.
“The clock is ticking. Every year we delay, we lose.”