No deal may be reached over health care coverage in the Utah State Legislature

Posted at 4:19 PM, Mar 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-10 19:45:15-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- With two days left in the Utah State Legislature, the biggest issue facing state lawmakers may not happen after all.

The House, Senate and the governor have yet to reach an agreement on Medicaid expansion, an issue that affects tens of thousands of Utah's poorest. On Tuesday, the House held on to its version of health care coverage, dubbed "Utah Cares." House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said it was so negotiations could continue.

"If it takes two to tango in this little dance, we’ve got three that have to tango," Hughes told reporters. "I think the House has been dancing the whole time. We’re moving. I can show you evidence that we have moved. We need a Senate. We need an executive branch to move as well. You need everybody ready to dance."

The Senate said it has been working in good faith to reach a compromise, especially after the House killed its version of Medicaid expansion dubbed "Healthy Utah." Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, expressed hope that a deal could be reached before the end of the session.

But the sponsor of "Healthy Utah," Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Salt Lake City, wasn't sure if a compromise could be reached by the end of the session.

"We definitely have that possibility looming," he said. "And with that, if this in fact does stall and we can’t move forward with this, we have to look at this summer, this fall and maybe some further action."

Governor Gary Herbert told reporters he was hopeful for compromise.

"I’m hopeful that we’ll have something," he said. "I think doing nothing is the worst of all the options."

But if nothing does happen, the governor could take some type of executive action like calling lawmakers into special session to deal with it. An executive order, his office said, is not possible.

"I’m optimistic that before midnight Thursday we can come up with a resolution," the governor said.

Asked what he would do if nothing happened, the governor told reporters: "I don't know."