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Some fresh ideas about how to expand Medicaid have "percolated" since the legislative session ended, but one of the chief architects continued to speak only in broad terms Thursday.
"There's a lot of nuanced ideas we can put together and come up with a good solution," House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan said after a luncheon at the Capitol Rotunda.
Dunnigan was one of five panelists invited by the Utah Breakfast Club to discuss prospects for expansion of the health care system for the poor. He declined to be more specific with the 27 people attending, including five other lawmakers.
Dunnigan traveled to Washington, D.C., two weeks ago with Gov. Gary Herbert, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, House Speaker Greg Hughes and the sponsor of the Senate's Medicaid expansion bill, Sen. Brian Shiozawa, to meet with Obama administration officials on Utah's options.
That group, and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, promised on the last day of the legislative session to come up with an acceptable compromise to dueling Senate and House Medicaid bills Healthy Utah and Utah Cares, respectively by the end of July.
Dunnigan conceded that deadline is ambitious, but said Thursday he still believes it's doable. The idea is the full Legislature would be called into special session to consider the plan.
Herbert, speaking at his monthly KUED news conference, said he, too, thinks the six are on track to make the end-of-July deadline. "Everyone seems to be coming to the table with an open mind and willingness to understand better each other's position," he said.
At the end of the meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and her team, Burwell took Dunnigan's hand and told him, Dunnigan said, "I think that we can get this done."
"And so I'm hopeful. But it's got to be the right policy," Dunnigan said.
The Utah delegation was asking HHS for flexibility in how the state expands Medicaid, as well as some assurance that it can cap or otherwise control Utah's share of the costs.
"They view things differently," Dunnigan told those attending the luncheon. "They don't worry about the money. They don't even think of it."
Herbert said he believes Utah can cap its costs. "There are ways we can cap and predict the future cost of a Healthy Utah program or ... whatever you want to name it."
The day the delegation was in Washington, Herbert told reporters he expected the group would have some options to show the public in three weeks, which would be next week.
Dunnigan seemed less certain that will happen, noting that the Legislature's Health Reform Task Force will get an update when it meets in a couple weeks. No date is yet on the legislative calendar for that meeting.
Robert Gehrke contributed to this report.
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