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Sen. Brian Shiozawa expressed confidence Thursday that the governor and key legislative leaders will come up with a Medicaid expansion plan that's even better than Healthy Utah or the House's Utah Cares plan.
Shiozawa, a Cottonwood Heights Republican, sponsored the governor's Healthy Utah plan, which the governor negotiated during 2014 with the Obama administration. It passed in the Senate during the last legislative session, but failed in the House, which favored a more modest expansion called Utah Cares.
Gov. Gary Herbert, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, House Speaker Greg Hughes, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, Rep. Jim Dunnigan and Shiozawa have been meeting since the session, trying to craft a plan to provide health care coverage for poor Utahns.
The group will not meet its self-imposed July 31 deadline, but David Patton, executive director of the Utah Department of Health said, "By the end of the month, we'll be in a position where [they] will have made significant progress."
Patton and Shiozawa on Thursday were updating the Legislature's Health Reform Task Force on progress in the talks.
Shiozawa, quoting Hughes, said, "We will develop a template unique for Utah but one that other states will look at as a reasonable approach."
The key features, he said, will include a dedicated stream of revenue to cover the state's costs, one that involves a contribution from doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and others who stand to gain from more insured patients.
The negotiators are trying to figure out how to accurately predict who will take the insurance, and how to discourage "crowd out," which occurs when people drop their insurance or businesses stop offering plans so people can go on the new Medicaid plan.
Shiozawa said the group also is coming up with reasonable caps on enrollment, and an "escape" mechanism for the state if the economy goes south or if costs are much higher than expected.
The plan, he said, will be "fair, sustainable and responsible going forth."
Whatever the Gang of Six, as they're calling themselves, comes up with, the Obama administration will have to approve waivers to traditional Medicaid rules.
Dunnigan, who is co-chair of the task force, said it's a difficult task. "We are well aware we have Utahns in the coverage gap that need help."