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House Republicans meeting behind closed doors Thursday could not reach a consensus about how or whether to expand Medicaid to help poor Utahns.

Leaders say they have a good idea where their members stand now, but declined to elaborate much. But they say that understanding their colleagues' stances will help them know how they can negotiate the matter with the Senate and Gov. Gary Herbert.

"There was not a caucus position of 38 or more [members] on any way forward," said House Speaker Greg Hughes. Republicans hold a 63-12 majority in the House. "The candor, the information shared, the questions asked I think help inform this leadership team mightily."

House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan said three options were discussed.

They include Herbert's "Healthy Utah" plan to cover about 146,000 Utahns who are too poor to qualify for insurance through so-called Obamacare. Another is a scaled-back version, called "Utah Cares," would cover about 10,000 of the most medically frail or vulnerable among those without coverage.

The third option is not to expand Medicaid at all, at least for now.

Hughes declined to say what was the most popular option in the GOP caucus, though he indicated doing nothing is not a likely outcome. "We're not burying our head on the sand in this issue."

But Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, the sponsor of the Utah Cares proposal, said he was told by House members that there is strong support now for doing nothing on Medicaid expansion this session.

"I've said for some time, the end result I'm worried about is do nothing and that has gained a lot of traction in the House now," Christensen said. "I'm going to do my best to do something, which is really strange for me. But there are people who need it."

Dunnigan and Hughes said they feel proposals by the goveror on how to fund the state portion of his Healthy Utah plan likely are not realistic.

They include a $25 million assessment on hospitals, seeking $38 million from a tax on e-cigarettes, doubling physician fees and seeking savings on mass purchase of mental-health drugs for Medicaid patients.

Dunnigan said hospitals have not committed to him to support the hospital tax. He finds that physicians oppose doubling their licensing fees. He doubts an e-cigarette tax could generate as much as claimed. And a bill for drug savings has stalled.

"Those cornerstones of funding are not there" for Healthy Utah, Dunnigan said.

But Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said Thursday that if the bill includes the two-year sunset date that is being pushed in the Senate, the program can be handled within existing budgets. He endorsed the trial-period concept, saying that would allow the state, armed with better data, to decide down the road whether to continue or change it .

Bills for both "Healthy Utah" and "Utah Cares" have made it through committees in the Senate, and are headed for floor debate there.

­ — Robert Gehrke contributed to this report