- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A Utah House committee voted Monday to approve a Medicaid-expansion plan pushed by Republicans in that chamber.

The House Business and Labor Committee voted 11-3 on Monday to approve the measure, advancing it to the full House for consideration.

Monday’s vote on the plan fell along party lines, with Democrats voting against.

The House plan eschews more than $500 million in federal dollars and instead uses $30 to $35 million in state money to address the neediest of about 60,000 uninsured Utah residents.

It’s unclear how many people would be helped, but the state money would be used to help them get health coverage in the private market.

GOP leaders in the House have said their plan is financially responsible because it keeps the state from becoming more dependent on federal money, particularly if that money is no longer available down the road.

Democratic lawmakers have condemned the plan as irresponsible, while Republican Gov. Gary Herbert called the plan “illogical.”

Utah taxpayers already send their money to the federal government, so they deserve to have some of it returned to the state, Herbert said.

Herbert said he will release details of his own decision on the issue within 10 days.

Under the federal health care law, states have the option of expanding eligibility for Medicaid, the state-federal program for low-income people. If states fully expand the program to include people making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, the federal government has offered to pick up the full cost through 2016 and 90 percent after that.

Utah is one of several states considering Medicaid expansion this year.

Because of a gap in the health care law, there are about 60,000 Utah residents below the federal poverty level who are not covered by Medicaid or eligible for federal subsidies to pay for private insurance.

Monroe Republican Sen. Ralph Okerlund, the Senate majority leader, said Tuesday that GOP senators have not taken a unified position on a plan for Medicaid.

They are still discussing the issue and hope to reach a decision soon, Okerlund said.

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Online:

HB 141: https://1.usa.gov/1hbIj9I


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