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A doctor in the House is recommending that legislators adopt a form of Medicaid expansion that closely mirrors the "Healthy Utah" plan previously proposed by Gov. Gary Herbert and passed by the Senate — but blocked in the House.

Rep. Raymond Ward, R-Bountiful, a family physician, introduced HB302 on Friday as his prescription of how to expand Medicaid.

"My bill starts with the same idea as Healthy Utah, and seeks the same waiver requests as the governor" from the federal government, Ward said.

"It would cover the exact same number of people as Healthy Utah. That is everybody who does not have coverage because they are below the poverty level," he added.

He said he would pay for it through "an assessment on the hospitals for $25 million, and a tax on e-cigarettes at the same rates as other cigarettes." He said that tax makes sense because "it's all nicotine, and it's all addicting."

Ward said he borrows some ideas from plans that other House members pushed, but which also failed.

That includes not covering emergency room services if they truly were not for an emergency. He said that would help hold down costs and have people go to less expensive urgent-care facilities where possible.

Also he said, "If family members otherwise would be forced on other [health care] plans because of the complicated rules we have, this would allow family members to stay on the same plan."

The debate on Medicaid expansion came because the federal Affordable Care Act had intended that states would expand Medicaid to cover some of the poor who don't qualify for subsidies in the health marketplace, and it offered money to help. Several states turned it down, and sought waivers for plans they prefer instead.

Ward last year also pushed Healthy Utah, but House members balked at the long-term costs. They worried that Healthy Utah's wider expansion — and a 90-10, federal-state split — could attract more people than believed, and be more expensive than a smaller expansion even with a 70-30 split instead.

Ward said his bill contains a "roll-back" provision so that if the state ever finds a 90-10 split and a wider Medicaid expansion is more expensive, it would revert to the smaller expansion and 70-30 split.

House leaders have said they do not believe a Healthy Utah-style proposal has the votes to pass the House. So House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, is drafting a proposal that he says would cover about a third of those in the uninsured gap. He says it would cover those who are the poorest, many of whom are homeless.