Utah Cap Haps Blog

Friday, October 30, 2015

October Legislative Updates

Capitol Pic of the Day


Click on this link to get up to speed on the current status of Medicaid Expansion. 


Elected Officials & Criminal Justice Appropriations Subcommittee The committee meeting took place at the Fortitude Treatment Center, which is a halfway house for male parolees who are working to integrate back into society. The committee heard an overview of an audit on the Attorney General's Office and took action to further explore better alternatives related to billing for services.  

Additionally, the Juvenile Justice Center recently invited the Council of State Governments (CSG) to audit their practices and make recommendations for improvement. Visit this link to see a list of the findings and the agency's response. 

Government Operations Interim Committee - The committee listened to several proposed bills addressing election law. One standardized the way categories are to be listed on the ballot. Another provided options for clerks to notify voters of an election. And another shortened the time frame by which an election officer is required to mail absentee ballots (vote by mail) to voters. 

Additionally, our Legislative Fiscal Analyst demonstrated how to use their newly developed federal funding risk model. It is a dynamic tool that allows you to assess risk associated with the various pots of federal dollars, in the event that certain committed federal dollars are not allocated to the state, due to a shutdown, default or sequestration. Check it out. It is available for the public to use as well.

Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee - The committee spent most of its time listening to annual report presentations from various state agencies. To see what the following agencies worked on during the year, click on the interested report on the "view list" hyperlink under "meeting materials" for the October 21st meeting.

Retirement and Independent Entities Appropriations Committee - The committee heard an update on the consolidated DHRM ISF rates and why it makes sense to have consistencies in all of the agencies with respect to services, regulations and rates. The committee also heard an update on the goals and initiatives for the Utah Futures program, as well as the Education and Telehealth Network's FY 2015 accomplishments.  


I had the opportunity to participate in a few events this month. 

The Utah Multicultural Commission hosted their annual youth summit, where I participated on a panel with two other colleagues to talk about civic engagement. Roughly 2,000 at-risk youth gathered at the South Towne Convention Center to participate in the day long conference with various break-out sessions. 

I participated on a panel discussing community engagement pathways for the Utah Compact Engaged Citizen Retreat. 

Participants included AmeriCorp volunteers and undergraduates from colleges all around the State of Utah. It was rewarding to meet so many service-minded people around the state who are committed to making a difference in people's lives.

Medicaid Expansion in a Nutshell


One of the unintended consequences of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was that it created a coverage gap for people in the State of Utah who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid coverage and not enough money to qualify for tax subsidies to purchase private insurance coverage. 

During the last legislative session, the legislature could not agree on any of the proposed plans to resolve this issue. As a result, the legislature passed a resolution forming a small group that would continue working on a revised proposal. This group was later labeled,  the "Gang of Six" (Governor, Lt. Governor, Senate President, House Speaker, Majority Leader and the primary sponsor of the original proposal). 

The Gang of Six came up with a plan called, Access Plus.


The Health Reform Taskforce met on October 6th to review the Utah Access+ plan and associated waiver requests. The committee met for four hours, about an hour longer than scheduled, in order to listen to the constituents and stakeholders who wanted to be heard. Listen to the meeting through this link. You may also view a list of public comments that was provided in writing. 

The plan implemented a cost share in the financing of the plan, where the state would pay one third of the state's share, and the medical providers would pay two thirds. For details, see the actual Utah Access+ Medicaid Expansion Proposal.

The House Majority Caucus largely disapproved of the new proposal, with fewer supporters than for Healthy Utah. Watch the press interview right after the meeting, along with a brief Utah Policy interview that provides a summary of the issues surrounding the new proposal.

The plan failed to garner sufficient support in either the Senate or the House of Representatives. One of the primary arguments to support expansion was that we are paying federal taxes to the federal government and getting nothing in return. With the release of new budget estimates, we recently learned from our Legislative Fiscal Analyst that without expansion, we are getting back even more than we paid out. Below are the recently released numbers.

As mentioned repeatedly by legislative leadership in both the House and Senate, this issue is not likely to go away. Additional forthcoming proposals are anticipated.