Bill To Replace Proposition 3 Medicaid Expansion Passes Senate, Causes Controversy

Feb 4, 2019, 9:14 PM | Updated: Feb 5, 2019, 12:13 am

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Senate Bill 96, which promises to bring Medicaid expansion in Utah, with the help of more federal dollars, passed through the state senate Monday. Bill sponsor, Republican Senator Allen Christensen, of North Ogden, says Proposition 3 as is, would bring too much expense to the state budget.

“They’re not obligated to balance the budget, we are,” Christensen said, in a press conference. “We’re going to implement Medicaid expansion in a fiscally reasonable way, where the public, Proposition 3 did not provide for adequate funding of what it asked for.”

From left, Senator Allen Christensen (R), Senate President Stuart (R), Luz Escamilla (D), and Majority Whip Daniel Hemmert (R), answer media questions after a senate vote on SB 96.

Christensen says his bill would bring an annual savings of around $87 million, while Proposition 3 as it stands would bring about $74 million in expenses. Medicaid expansion would at first get funding temporary from the state, depending later upon waivers to draw in more federal dollars to fill in the gaps. Discussion over the bill drew heated debate in the Senate chambers Monday morning.

“The problem is the voters didn’t have all the information, because the Prop 3 didn’t provide all the information,” Republican Senator Jacob Anderegg, of Lehi, said.

“We’re going to spend $71 million dollars, what? To turn our back on the voting public?!” Democratic Senator Gene Davis, of Salt Lake City, later responded. “They have assurance that that’s (the waivers) going to happen, but I haven’t heard a name of who has assured this! Who said it’s going to happen? It hasn’t happened for any state yet.”

Christensen said unlike past attempts to get similar federal waivers, he feels the proper research has been done, and they are more likely to get passed this time.

“They (the taxpayers) wanted a tax increase, they wanted Medicaid expansion, and that’s what we’re doing,” Christensen said. “They didn’t fill in the proper blanks. We are filling in those blanks for them.”

SB 96 also includes a provision, that if the waivers do not get approved, the Medicaid expansion would not happen, however, Senate President Stuart Adams added that the state legislature will be back in session well before bridge funding for Medicaid expansion runs out, giving them time to find another solution.

Matthew Slonaker, with the Utah Health Policy Project

Matthew Slonaker, with the Utah Health Policy Project, told the media in an afternoon press conference that work requirements, and a per capita limit for Medicaid recipients, as outlined in SB 96, would exclude too many people.

“The voters didn’t vote on work requirements,” Slonaker said. “They did not vote on pursuing waivers, that have gotten us nowhere for six years.”

Senate Bill 96 is now headed for the house.

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Bill To Replace Proposition 3 Medicaid Expansion Passes Senate, Causes Controversy