Utah Senate passes modified Medicaid expansion bill

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UPDATE 2/11: The Utah Senate passed the modified Medicaid Expansion bill SB 96 by a 22-7 vote on Monday. The bill now goes to Governor Herbert’s desk for a signature.

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PREVIOUS STORY Friday 2/8

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Some heated moments on Utah’s Capitol Hill Friday, as the House takes up a bill to modify Proposition 3 to expand Medicaid in our state.

After a long debate, representatives voted to approve a new version of the bill.

Emotions were running high outside the House Chamber as Senate Bill 96 was being debated.

Faith leaders, who support Prop 3, joined in prayer and protest.

And, inside the gallery, a protester had to be escorted out by law enforcement after he yelled: “respect our vote” from the balcony.

Most Republican lawmakers say they are respecting the vote, but doing it in a fiscally responsible way.

“This plan will create the same number of jobs, put the same amount of money into the economy and it’s sustainable. We do it in a sustainable way,” said Representative Jim Dunnigan, (R) Taylorsville.

Dunnigan, the House sponsor, is adding a fallback option to the bill that passed the Senate.

Simply put, the bill would expand coverage to Utahns at or below 100 percent of the federal poverty level on April 1, 2019, on a 70/30 split. Those up to 138 percent of the FPL would stay on the exchange.

If a 90/10 waiver from the feds doesn’t come through by January 2020, Medicaid would expand to 138 percent of the FPL with work and employer-sponsored healthcare requirements.

If waivers don’t come through for that by July 2020, the fallback would be Representative Ray Ward’s HB 210, which provides full Medicaid expansion with some smaller modifications.

House Democrats say full expansion up front is still the best way to go.

“It’s not to the same cost to the vulnerable population we are talking about, and we are talking about a vulnerable population,” said Representative Brian King, D- Salt Lake City.

In the end, the House voted to approve the amended bill 56-19. Representatives Eliason, Hall and Hutchings were the three Republicans to vote no.

Advocates say the fight isn’t over.

“We find it really shameful that lawmakers ignore the will of the people, and now, we are going to make sure voters remember,” said Chase Thomas with Alliance for a Better Utah.

While supporters of the bill say the legislature did exactly what they should have.

“Voters wanted to expand Medicaid and I feel like 96 does that, but in a way we can afford,” said Tamara Atkin who volunteers with Americans for Prosperity.

The 56-vote mark is a significant point because if the Senate also gets a 2/3rds vote the bill will be protected from a referendum.

That is expected to happen on Monday. The Senate sponsor, Senator Allen Christensen, says he believes it’s a done deal.

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Glen Mills

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 Glen is honored to be delivering the news of the day every weeknight at 5, 6, and 10 in his home state. He is an award-winning veteran journalist, who joined the ABC4 News team as a weekend anchor in June 2013. Over the years, he held various positions at the station as he worked his way up to the main anchor chair. He also serves as our Senior Political Correspondent and hosts Inside Utah Politics, which airs every Sunday. The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has recognized Glen as the best government and military television reporter in the state. Before returning home to Utah, he spent 11 1/2 years developing his journalism skills in other states. He held various on-air and management positions at KPVI in Pocatello, Idaho, WGBA in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and KKCO in Grand Junction, Colorado during that time. Read More...