Utah fifth state to join Health Care Compact
Health reform • Governor signs bill to replace Medicare, Medicaid with state-run care.
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Utah Gov. Gary Herbert on Tuesday signed a controversial measure to replace Medicare and Medicaid with a block grant to the states.

SB208 would have Utah join an interstate "Health Care Compact" designed to allow states to opt out of federal health reform without forgoing billions in federal funding.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, believes states can manage Medicare and Medicaid more efficiently without harm to the tens-of-thousands of seniors and low-income and disabled Utahns who depend on them.

But hospitals and consumer advocates warned the bill risks tying Utah's fate to states with poorer health and higher health costs.

It also would also mean sacrificing $132 million in federal funding by 2014 because the block grants are not designed to keep pace with medical inflation, they said.

Moderate Republicans were swayed to support the "message bill" after it was amended to include a sunset clause and requirement for further study. The compact must be approved by Congress, which some wagered is unlikely.

Herbert has repeatedly voiced support for replacing Medicaid with state-run care, but hasn't said whether he'd risk the same with Medicare.

Herbert's spokeswoman Ally Isom said only, "The Governor supports the concept of block-granting all federal funds to states."

And while the sunset date gave him comfort, she said, "it did not significantly factor into his decision" to sign the bill.

To date, four states have pledged to join the compact: Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Georgia. Two governors have vetoed the idea, including Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer.

kstewart@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kirstendstewart —

Recent coverage of the compact

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