Despite Capitol protests, Healthy Utah alternative passes House


Michael A. Kruse
Capital West News

SALT LAKE CITY — Despite 200 people crowded the Capitol rotunda in early March, chanting “We Want Health care, We Want Health care,” the Healthy Utah bill has been replaced with a substitute know as “Utah Cares” and is now waiting for action by the Utah Senate.

The Rally for Healthy Utah on March 5. came on the heels of Gov. Gary Herbert’s “Healthy Utah” plan which failed in committee

Herbert’s “Healthy Utah” would of provided health insurance coverage. To the uninsured Utahns who make 0 to 100 of the poverty level, who don’t qualify for coverage under the affordable car act or qualify for medicaid.

“We are here to show that we are right, and the House is wrong,” said Sen. Brain Shiozawa, R-Cottonwood Heights, who sponsored the bill, SB164, expanded the health care coverage cap, providing insurance to those between 0-100 percent of poverty

Shiozawa would of put the governor’s plan into effect for two years. The bill was given a two-year sunset to provide more cost certainty. Even so the House Business and Labor Committee denied to move the bill out of committee by a vote of 9-4. Shiozawa claims that his plan covers the most for the least amount of money.

Some Republicans in the house are concerned about the uncertainty of a current U.S. Supreme Court case that could gut the Affordable Care Act, or a new President in 2017, who could lower the federal match sticking Utah with the bill.

Shiozawa says that’s why his bill had a the sunset clause on it for two years. Critics responded that pilot programs rarely go away.

Rep. Sandra Hollins, D- Salt Lake, said she denied the chance to speak for her district, and vote the way her constituents wanted. She said the bill should be allowed to go the floor in order to give every representative a chance to vote on the record. She also encouraged people to make their voices heard and if there voices aren’t heard their representatives to make their voices heard in the next election.

Doug Wright, KSL radio host, came out and stood in favor of the bill. He argued the bill was being held up by a small minority in the House. Wright claimed that Republican told him that if it were a secret ballot the measure would passed.

Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, dismissed the accusation telling reporters that he with the Republican being large that he doesn’t have the power to coerce vote. Hughes answered the criticism that pool numbers show vast public support for it by saying that it;s too complex of an issue to be answered in a question on the phone.

The House Business an Labor Committee did pass out Rep. Jim Dunnigan’s bill as alternative plan. Dunnigan’s plan, HB446 which is known as “Utah Cares.” Dunninigan’s plan would expand medicaid for about 22,000 Utahns. Everyone else in the gap, would be covers under Primary Care Network.

Critics say that network isn’t good coverage, since it does;t cover hospitalizations or specialist care. Rylee Curtis, the Medicaid Policy Advisory for Utah Health Policy Project, said she knew a lady who needed a colonopsy that her PCN wouldn’t cover and now she is on medicaid because she has colon cancer.

“That’s why we need Healthy Utah,” she said.

“Utah Cares”  passed the House on Friday. Rep. Edward Redd, R- Logan, Presented a substitute bill opens up the netword to cover mental health issues. The substitute was adopted and the bill now moves the Seante.

Rep. Brain King, D- Salt Lake and house minority leader, explained why the Democrats didn’t vote for the bill.

“Healthy Utah is the lowest we were willing to compromise to,” he said. He did conceded that in an absolute sense doing something is better than doing nothing, but Dunnigan’s;s plan is Fiscally irresponsible compared to healthy Utah. Speaker Hughes declined to say whether there were enough votes to pass Dunnigan’s bill on the floor without the Democrats.

At the rally supporters of Healthy Utah pleaded for lawmakers to find a middle ground between Dunnigan’s and Shiozwaza’s plan. Dunnigan said hes open to working with Sen. Shiozawa in to come with a compromise with between the to bills.

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