Medicaid expansion

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

It’s official, President Obama is finally coming to Utah. He’s expected to fly into Hill Air Force Base where he will give a speech on the economy. Utah is only one of two states that Mr. Obama has not yet visited as president. 

Andrea Smardon / KUER

Republican state lawmakers have committed to come up with an agreement to close the health insurance coverage gap for the poor in Utah this year. But House Speaker Greg Hughes says a deal on Medicaid expansion rides on the Obama administration’s willingness to compromise. 

The legislature ended at midnight last night, and less than 6 hours later I’m on the road to get out of the state as quickly as possible. Coincidence? I’ll let you decide.

To recap the session, here’s a quick list of what the legislature did…and didn’t do.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

The Utah legislative session ended with no solution to the healthcare coverage gap, but Governor Gary Herbert and GOP state lawmakers say they have a plan.

Brian Grimmett

For a bill to become law the Senate, the House, and the Governor all have to give their approval. But even with a Republican super-majority in the Utah legislature, that process often encounters obstacles.

401(k)2012 / Flickr Creative Commons

Competing House and Senate Medicaid expansion plans are now on the table, and that means state lawmakers have just four days to settle their differences on this major issue before the session ends.

Brian Grimmett

Two opposing healthcare bills aimed at covering  the uninsured were heard in a House committee last night. Only one of them passed.

It only took 5 weeks, but the legislature has turned it up to 11 and has started to move through some important legislation at break neck speeds.

Brian Grimmett

A partial Medicaid expansion plan that would provide healthcare coverage to Utah’s most vulnerable population failed to pass the senate floor on Thursday.

Brian Grimmett

A bill modeled after Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s Medicaid expansion plan “Healthy Utah” passed the full Senate Wednesday. But the bill might be stalled in the House. 

Believe it or not, but we’ve made it past the half way mark of the 2015 legislative session. That means the real work can finally begin.

Courtesy photo

A bill challenging Governor Gary Herbert’s Healthy Utah Plan is moving forward on Capitol Hill.

It’s the end of week three and we’re basically in the same spot we were at the end of week two.

Brian Grimmett

Legislators tasked with prioritizing social service budget items discussed two bills Wednesday that take different approaches on filling Utah’s Medicaid gap.

Brian Grimmett / KUER

A Republican lawmaker has filed a bill that would be an alternative to Governor Gary Herbert’s Medicaid expansion plan.

Brian Grimmett

Republican state lawmakers held a conference call last week with federal government officials to talk about possible alternatives to Governor Gary Herbert’s Medicaid expansion plan. They did not include the governor on this call.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

Governor Gary Herbert made the case for his Medicaid expansion plan this week, but fellow Republican lawmakers are still not convinced.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

In the wake of the death of former Utah House speaker Rebecca Lockhart, new speaker Greg Hughes was sworn in today and laid out his agenda for the legislative session.

Brian Grimmett

Utah State Lawmakers will be working through a long list of pressing issues in the next 45 days of the 2015 legislative session including Medicaid expansion, the relocation of the state prison and a state-wide anti-discrimination bill.

The Office of the Utah Governor

Utah Governor Gary Herbert met with President Barack Obama Tuesday in Washington. After the meeting, Herbert said there may be room for further negotiation on his health plan.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

Some influential Utah lawmakers delivered a blow Thursday to Governor Gary Herbert’s plan to expand health coverage to low-income Utahns. In a motion led by Republicans, the state Health Reform Task Force voted not to recommend the governor’s plan to the legislature. Instead, they recommended their own plan.

KUED

  Utah Governor Gary Herbert says he’s finally worked out a deal with the Obama administration on the details of his Healthy Utah plan, but he still has to get it through the Utah legislature. 

Brian Grimmett / KUER

Governor Gary Herbert is still encountering resistance from fellow Republicans on his plan to provide health coverage to the poor. Utah Department of Health officials briefed a committee of state lawmakers Thursday on their negotiations in Washington. The Governor has said he is pleased with the outcome, but some conservative state lawmakers are still not sold on the plan to expand government assistance in Utah.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

Some conservative lawmakers are still resisting an expansion of Medicaid in Utah, despite testimony from those who can’t afford health coverage and a new analysis showing the economic benefits of the governor’s Healthy Utah proposal.

Charlotte Lawrence tried to contain her emotion as she sat before the state’s health reform task force, with her children on either side. She explained that she is a single parent, working two full time jobs, and she has been diagnosed with cancer. She says she’s done all she can to provide for herself and her family, but it’s not enough.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

Utah lawmakers were stunned to hear Thursday that the number of people who fall in the so-called health coverage gap is significantly higher than they thought. Researchers from the University of Utah presented results from a new report on the Medicaid eligibility expansion population to a state health committee.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

Wearing fake grass skirts and plastic leis, health advocates took turns going under a limbo pole in front of House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart’s office Wednesday. The idea was to highlight the plight of Utahns who fall into the Medicaid coverage gap, and the pole was steadily lowered to represent each month this year that they have not been able to pay for healthcare. The mood was light, but Christine Stenquist quickly became emotional when she began talking about why she is taking part in this demonstration.

Brian Grimmett

The Salt Lake County Council is sending a letter this week to the Utah legislature asking them to support the Governor’s Healthy Utah Plan and accept Medicaid funds. County councilors have said those federal funds could offset a 12 percent budget shortfall for behavioral health services expected next year. But so far, state lawmakers are holding firm in their positions on Medicaid.

Salt Lake County faces a budget shortfall and service cuts if the state doesn’t accept Medicaid funds from the federal government. The County Council will draft a letter at their meeting Tuesday urging state lawmakers to support the Governor’s Healthy Utah Plan, and to do it this summer before the County has to complete its budget. 

Democratic Salt Lake County Councilor Sam Granato was hoping the legislature would have made a decision by now on whether Utah should accept Medicaid funds to provide health coverage for more than 110,000 low-income Utahns.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

Utah’s Republican lawmakers say they’re not ready to make any decisions about Medicaid expansion or the governor’s alternative plan. That means over 110,000 low income Utahns will likely be waiting at least until next year before they know what their health insurance options may be.

At a GOP caucus this week, Republicans legislators determined that they don’t all agree when it comes to Medicaid and healthcare reform.

Brian Grimmett

Governor Gary Herbert is in Washington D.C. Monday meeting with outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about his plan to help low income Utahns get health insurance.

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