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Medicaid expansion replacement bill signed by governor

(Photo Credit: Utah Governor's Office)

UTAH STATE CAPITOL – The state’s controversial bill that replaces Prop Three Medicaid expansion is officially signed by Governor Gary Herbert after passing through the Senate by a 22 to 7 vote.

The bill had plenty of critics.

Senate Bill 96 depends heavily on getting federal waivers to allow the state to make changes to full Medicaid expansion.  But, Senator Gene Davis asked, what happens if we don’t get them?

“The fallback is to give the people what they voted for, which is full Medicaid expansion, if we don’t get the waivers?” he asked.  Bill sponsor Allen Christensen replied, “Basically, yes.”

Christensen maintains that he has been told by federal officials that the state will be granted the waivers, but, he says there’s a backup plan in case that doesn’t happen.

“We have enough money, if worse came to worse, we could implement on April 1, and pay for it completely out of state funds, if we had to,” Christen says.

He added that if there are further funding problems, they can make additional changes in the next legislative session.  That didn’t sit well with some critics.

“We could be back here, having the same debate next January?” asked Senator Davis.  Christensen replied, “That’s conceivable, yes,” to which Davis responded, “I know that’s not what the people voted for.”

Governor Herbert signed the bill in a private ceremony this afternoon.  Afterwards, he issued a statement, saying…

“SB 96 balances Utah’s sense of compassion and frugality. It provides quality coverage to the same population covered by Proposition 3 in a meaningful, humane and sustainable way. It is now time to set aside differences and move forward to get those in greatest need enrolled on Medicaid and on the federal health care exchanges.”