House Committee Shuts Down Healthy Utah Bill

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(Photo Courtesy of the Utah Health Policy Project)
(Photo Courtesy of the Utah Health Policy Project)
(Photo Courtesy of the Utah Health Policy Project)

On Wednesday, SB 164, legislation for Healthy Utah, was shot down in the House Business and Labor Committee, meaning it won’t go the full Utah House for vote.

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Gov. Gary Herbert’s proposed Healthy Utah plan was meant to assist low-income Utahns with federal funding. The House voted against SB 164 in favor of a straightforward Medicaid expansion bill sponsored by Rep. James Dunnigan’s (R-Taylorsville). Sen. Brian Shiozawa (R-Cottonwood Heights), the Healthy Utah sponsor, said the two ideas should be merged into one “compromise” solution.

“Healthy Utah gives us back the biggest amount of federal money, healthy business climate, jobs for our citizens and good healthcare,” Shiozawa said at the committee hearing.

He said SB 164 would cover the insurance coverage gap in Utah quicker than Obamacare, insuring 95,000 Utahns between the ages of 19 and 64.

Vivian Lee, dean of the U’s School of Medicine and CEO of U Health Care, expressed some concerns at the hearing for how much money it would actually save the state to adopt Healthy Utah.

“We care for many, many individuals throughout care, even if they cannot pay. Due to this, we spent $120 million last year in charity care,” she said. “Even if the Healthy Utah program is adopted that amount will only be reduced by about $20 million.”

Lee said healthcare has improved in Arizona, Maine and New York since Medicaid was introduced in those places.

The SB 164 meeting concluded after debates about taxes, availability and amendments. The House Business and Labor Committee voted 9-4 against the bill and 9-4 in favor of Dunnigan’s legislation.

c.kannapel@chronicle.utah.edu

@chriswritine

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