Bill would address long-term insurance and Medicaid

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 1:39 PM

Antone Clark, Standard-Examiner Correspondent

SALT LAKE CITY — A Davis County lawmaker is running legislation to amend the state’s Medicaid plan in regard to long-term insurance programs, a measure expected to allow seniors to consider new options without jeopardizing their eligibility for Medicaid.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, would make a technical change in state law, which would allow long-term policies to not count as eligibility assets for the purposes of Medicaid. In essence it offers those with the policies an exemption, so they don’t have to spend down or hide their assets to be eligible for the federal health care program.

A legislative committee heard details of the proposal on Wednesday and gave it a favorable recommendation, which means it will be available for review by the House and Senate when they convene for the 2014 session.

The measure, if approved, has the potential to save the state in Medicaid costs, according to Michael Hales, deputy director of Utah Department of Health. He said data from the 44 states, which have adopted the partnerships is still inconclusive about potential cost savings.

“The main objective here is that people with means can do very strategic planning to make sure they avoid having Medicaid pay for them,” Hales said.

He said the intent of the bill would be to provide another incentive to people to consider long-term insurance, rather than relying on Medicaid.

Some lawmakers on the committee see the incentive as just another means to help insurance companies, not to help states save money.

Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, wonders why the state would give insurance companies any incentive to sell long-term plans, when people can already take advantage of those options now.

“I am struggling for the need for yet another incentive to purchase this coverage. The reason this is sticking in my mind, it’s the industry that will profit from those policies that is here advocating for that incentive,” Greene said.

Sen. Alan Christensen, R-North Ogden, also voted against moving the bill out of committee, saying there are too many unanswered questions about the impact of the potential partnerships.

Danny Harris, an advocacy director for the AARP, says the partnerships have proven results in other states. He said data from California shows a $33 million savings in Medicaid costs from the legislation and said the savings is tallied at $19 million from New York State. He said AARP supports the bill because it provides incentives for seniors to consider options in looking to the future. He said some states even offer tax credits to people who buy the policies.

Utah lawmakers have considered tax credits for long-term care in the past, but that measure failed.

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