Governor talks ‘Healthy Utah’ plan with team behind Obamacare

Posted at 2:15 PM, Apr 16, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY -- Fresh off a trip to Washington D.C., Governor Gary Herbert says he is confident his plan to provide health coverage to low income Utahns, called "Healthy Utah," will be approved by the Obama Administration.

Herbert met with the White House Health Policy team. In the governor's words, "The people who wrote the Affordable Care Act."

"Their comment to me was this was never intended to be a one size fits all approach, so we embrace your proposal to have a unique Utah solution," Herbert said.

Herbert also met with outgoing Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius. He said the Secretary also said she didn't see any major objections to Healthy Utah.

"Healthy Utah" is a broad outline, with all the legal and medical details to be filled in. The basic structure: Utah would use federal money to pay the lion's share of insurance premiums for poor Utahns. Unlike Medicaid, the insurance would be privately administered and clients would have to pay a monthly premium and co-pays for doctor's visits.

Clients would also have to have a job, be training for a job, or actively looking for work.

The Affordable Care Act originally required all states to expand Medicaid in order to provide health care to low income Americans, but the Supreme Court struck down that provision of the law, saying it infringed on State Sovereignty.

The court's decision left it up to states to decide whether to take the federal offer to pay for 100 percent of low-income insurance costs for three years, and then to pay 90 percent after that.

For Utah, that means about 258 million dollars available annually.

Other states have negotiated their own plans to replace the federal option, which is to expand the existing Medicaid program to include all citizens who make less that 138 percent of the federal poverty rate.

The governor says Utahns pay the taxes that support the Affordable Care Act, so Utahns should benefit from the program, but his biggest hurdle may be at the state capitol where some legislators have said they will not support taking any money from the program so as not to participate in the fiscal irresponsibility they see in Washington.