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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers are hoping to send a message to the federal government that the state would like control over its own Medicaid dollars.
"I'd like them to not take the money in the first place," said Rep. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine, who is co-sponsoring a resolution that asks the federal governemtn for a block grant to cover Medicaid costs instead of the match rates the government currently provides.
Kennedy said the state would rather not be required to adhere to the federal mandates tied to the money.
"Let us determine how we'd utilize the money for the programs we choose," he said.
SCR8 has passed through the Senate and was heard Tuesday by the House Health and Human Services Committee, with some members expressing concerns.
Representatives questioned potential inflation or recession and how that might impact the money coming in, as well as the structure of block grants, which are competitive and require efficient use of funds. The idea of block-granting Medicaid funds is one that has also never been done before.
"In the short-term, we might think it is awesome, but the chance of it going up is not likely," said Rep. Edward Redd, R-Logan. "It's more likely to stay flat."
The resolution does not force Utah to take whatever offer the federal government gives, but "sends a message that we're interested in working it out," said Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo.
Thurston said the message should be that Utah is "interested in having a discussion about flexibility at the local level."
"I would trust anybody in this body to do a better job at dispensing those funds than, no offense, but a federal bureaucrat doing their best at trying to determine what Utah needs," Kennedy said.
The committee voted to advance the resolution to its final step, the House floor, prior to consideration by Gov. Gary Herbert.
The governor has said he also desires more flexibility for the states in spending Medicaid dollars that originate with taxpayers.