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Committee passes latest version of House GOP's Medicaid alternative


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SALT LAKE CITY — The latest version of the House GOP's alternative to Medicaid expansion was approved in committee Monday after the sponsor of the bill said it would attract some $80 million in federal funds.

Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, told members of the House Business and Labor Committee that it's not accurate to say the plan in HB401 only involves state tax dollars.

Because of existing Medicaid waivers for state programs aimed at helping low-income Utahns gain health care coverage, the state's investment of $35 million would be matched with $80 million in federal funds, Dunnigan said.

The $115 million would be used to help the medically frail and parents among the 54,000 Utahns earning less than the federal poverty level who don't qualify for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act or Medicaid, unless the expansion is accepted.

"We don't need permission to do this," Dunnigan said, referring to competing plans from Gov. Gary Herbert and Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Cottonwood Heights, that require waivers under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Both the governor and Shiozawa want to accept federal funds available for Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, using waivers to give the state more flexibility in spending the dollars.

The House plan, being pushed by House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, would turn down that money. Lockhart has slammed the governor on the issue since the first day of the 2014 Legislature, warning that taking federal dollars is a trap.

Dunnigan said his new bill is "essentially the same" as the language added earlier in the session by the committee to a health care bill, HB141. He said he hopes the separate bill will win more support.

But HB401 passed the committee 11-2 along party lines, just as HB141 did. The fiscal note for HB404 says the program could cost as much as $150 million over the next two years, including $106 million in federal funds.

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Lisa Riley Roche

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