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Utah lawmakers consider 3 plans for Utah's 60K uninsured

By Rich Piatt | Posted - Feb 28th, 2014 @ 7:20pm

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah government leaders have three different plans to consider for Medicaid expansion that is needed to cover the nearly 60,000 Utahns without health insurance.

Two proposals would require no-strings-attached waivers for hundreds of millions in federal funding from the Department of Health and Human Services. But the question is whether those waivers will be granted by the federal government.

“In the past, quite frankly, we haven’t had a lot of success in getting the department of Health and Human Services to work with us,” said Rep. Robert Spendlove, R-Sandy.

The day after the governor unveiled his “Utah Solution” plan, lawmakers are hesitating to embrace it.

While some call the governor's proposal unique, novel and bold, the question remains: Will Utah be allowed to opt out of the federal system, yet still get its money?

Spendlove worked in the governor's office until recently. He says getting the waivers is not a sure thing.

“The real question is whether the federal government will be willing to work with Utah as a partner,” Spendlove said.

“It appears it is full expansion with another title, and there was no support for full expansion in our stat caucus,” said Senate President Wayne Niederhauser.

Even if the governor's plan were approved today, assistance for Utahns who need healthcare won't be coming fast.

“The governor’s proposal, it will take time. It will likely be 2015 if the Legislature approves it, before we can get this program running,” said Lincoln Nehring from Voices for Utah Children.

The stalemate frustrates 29-year-old Toni Cerna, who has been diagnosed with multiple, chronic health issues. Cerna hasn't been able to afford going to a doctor in 13 years.

She's taking classes in her efforts to find a job that provides benefits. But for now, she's one of the 60,000 Utahns without health care.

“I feel like the politics of it may make sense to them, but seems they care more about that than the fact that there are a ton of people telling them that this is what they need to do to help the people they say they want to help,” Cerna said.

There are two weeks left for Utah’s lawmakers to figure out what to do with the future of health care for uninsured Utahns.


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