The gavel fell at midnight last Thursday marking the end of the 2015 Legislative session. But even though the legislature passed 524 new bills, they left the most important bill sitting on the table–Healthy Utah Medicaid Expansion.
Once again, tens of thousands of Utahns are left without coverage, unable to get preventative care and left to worry about where they’ll turn if faced with a serious illness.
Governor Herbert has been working on Healthy Utah for well over two years now. He has the overwhelming support of the public and the Senate, and he’s obviously frustrated with the refusal of the House to support his plan. However, the real frustration comes long before this most recent legislative session. Governor Herbert missed his opportunity.
In 2010, the Affordable Care Act was established. In 2012, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the validity of the Act and put the decision of whether or not to expand Medicaid, squarely in the hands of the states. From June 2012 until January 2013, Governor Herbert could have accepted full Medicaid Expansion.
But he didn’t make a decision. He was swayed by the partisan vitriol and anti-Obama sentiment that has pervaded too much of this important policy discussion. Herbert delayed and the legislature pounced.
During the 2013 session, the legislature took matters into their own hands. They passed a bill that would require legislative approval for any plan that would use state money and state infrastructure, snatching the power right out of Herbert’s open hands.
Two years later, we’re still waiting.
On the last day of the 2015 session, Governor Herbert held a press conference. He was joined by Lt. Governor Spencer Cox, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, House Speaker Greg Hughes who mid session, declared Healthy Utah dead without ever giving it a full House debate, Senator Brian Shiozawa, sponsor of the Healthy Utah bill, and Representative Jim Dunnigan, sponsor of the Frail Utah bill.
Herbert announced that since no agreement could be reached during the session that they were going to meet as a working group, roll up their sleeves and find a solution by July 31st of this year. At which point he’d call the legislature back in for a special session and pass a compromise bill.
Not a single Democrat was included in the group and there was no indication that any of their conversations will be held in public. Effectively, the discussions and decisions will be made behind closed doors by six Republican power brokers.
As of today, Utah has left over $350million dollars on the table. Money already paid by hardworking Utah taxpayers. Money that should have been coming back into the state to cover the medical expenses of those who make less.
But instead, we wait, just as our fellow Utahns have been waiting for four years for a compassionate decision from their elected leaders.
Governor Herbert, we’ve waiting long enough.