This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Capitol Hill leaders are talking compromise on health care.
Lawmakers said Monday they're hopeful, even as the clock winds down on the 2015 legislative session, that the Senate and governor can strike a compromise with the House over Medicaid expansion.
House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, said he wants to reach "common ground" with the Senate.
"The time frame is dwindling," he said. "But there is still time."
The Senate will not give Dunnigan's Utah Cares bill, HB446, a committee hearing, but will take it straight to the Senate floor, where Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, predicts it will fail.
Utah Cares would cover those in the Medicaid coverage gap by expanding both traditional Medicaid and the state's Primary Care Network (PCN). Under the plan, Medicaid would serve 22,000 more low-income Utahns and PCN would have enough money to cover 24,500 more adults.
Healthy Utah would extend health care coverage to an estimated 89,000, most of them via private health insurance plans or by helping them pay for insurance offered by their employers.
A new poll published by UtahPolicy.com on Monday found Utahns favor Healthy Utah over Utah Cares.
Some 55 percent of Utahns told pollsters they prefer Healthy Utah. Just 20 percent said they want Utah Cares. Another 11 percent said the Legislature should do nothing on Medicaid expansion. And 14 percent said they don't know what lawmakers should do.
The poll, Utah Policy said, had a margin of error of nearly 5 percent.
Neiderhauser said the Senate's GOP caucus has not discussed Utah Cares, but he predicted it would fare the same as another Medicaid expansion bill, SB153, which failed in the Senate 9-17.
That bill, sponsored by Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, would have covered about 10,000 medically frail Utahns.
The Healthy Utah bill sponsor, Cottonwood Heights Republican Sen. Brian Shiozawa, said it's "hard to just embrace" Utah Cares when he compares it to Healthy Utah, which would provide better coverage to more people for less money.
If he had a choice between Utah Cares, as now written, and sending Medicaid expansion to a special session or interim study, Shiozawa said he would choose the latter.
"I'd probably say let's take a few more months to talk about it," he said, "as much as I dislike the idea of not providing our vulnerable population with some care."
The governor's office estimates Healthy Utah would cost the state $25 million for its first two years, and that Utah Cares would cost $77 million.
The House has said Utah Cares would cost $65 million for two years.
Dunnigan said Monday that although lawmakers have not yet budgeted money for a Medicaid expansion, there are several options.
"It's an important policy decision and if we come to agreement, we'll find the funding for it," he said, noting that both Healthy Utah and Utah Cares would result in some savings in corrections and substance abuse rehabilitation.
He agreed that putting a decision on Medicaid off for later is an option. "Personally I hope we accomplish something this session," Dunnigan said.
Twitter: @Kristen Moulton