SALT LAKE CITY — The Healthy Utah Plan proposed by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert may be on its way to getting tossed out of the 2015 Legislative Session, even though the bill passed the Senate the same day.
In a majority vote Wednesday, Utah senators voted to pass an amended version of Herbert’s alternative to Medicaid expansion. The proposal moved forward after 17 senators voted in favor of the bill, leaving 11 voting no and one being absent.
Before the proposed bill could move on to discussion in the House of Representatives, however, House leaders put a halt on the bill’s progression. In a meeting with members of the press Wednesday, House Speaker Greg Hughes said there is not enough support for the bill to pass in the house, so bringing it in for debate would be futile.
In response, the governor’s office released a statement Wednesday calling for House leaders to allow discussion regarding the plan.
“The decision by House leadership to prevent the representatives of the people from hearing public comment–pro or con–and then voting on such an important issue is alarming,” Herbert said in the statement, “and should be of significant concern to citizens across our state.”
In previous interviews, Herbert has said the proposed two-year pilot plan would assist more than 100,000 Utahns, including an estimated 57,850 residents currently caught in the coverage gap created by the Affordable Care Act and the state’s Medicaid limitations.
In the statement, Herbert also expressed his concern that choosing to do nothing would be like a vote to pay the federal government $800 million in taxpayer money each year toward Federal Medicaid expansion while receiving almost nothing in return.
“While trying to provide some of our most vulnerable citizens with access to health insurance, we have worked diligently to address concerns raised by legislators in both chambers,” Herbert said in the statement. “Healthy Utah 2.0 deserves the strong consideration and open debate of the full House of Representatives.”
Following the bill’s passage through the Senate, the organization Providing Utahns Smarter Healthcare also released a statement in which Marc Watterson, Utah Director of Government Relations for the American Heart Association, called upon the House to follow the Senate’s example and pass Healthy Utah.
“Simply ignoring the work of the Senate in passing (Healthy Utah) puts the lives and livelihood of tens of thousands of Utahns at risk,” Watterson said in the statement. “The legislature promised to do better and we encourage all Utahns to hold them to their word.”
When voting on the bill Wednesday, Southern Utah Sens. Ralph Okerlund and David Hinkins voted in favor while Senators Evan Vickers and Stephen Urquhart voted against it.
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