One of the few bright spots in the midterm elections came from ballot measures, which allowed voters in states like Missouri, Florida, and Idaho to pass new laws much more progressive than anything their gerrymandered state legislatures would allow. One of the worst things to witness since the election has been those same states rolling back the democratic mandates of their voters.
So it goes in Utah today, where the state Senate has moved to roll back Medicaid expansion that was passed by voters in the 2018 midterms, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. The legislators voted 22-7 for a new bill, SB96, which would replace the Medicaid expansion bill, Proposition 3, voted in last November. The new bill will now go to Utah’s House of Representatives.
It’s still difficult to tell how much the new plan would cost, but it’s pretty clear it’ll cost more than Medicaid expansion.
From the Tribune:
The Senate on Friday delayed its final vote on SB96 while awaiting a new version of the bill and a cost estimate from fiscal analysts. Both the new bill and analysis were released over the weekend, showing that SB96 would cost $72 million over the next two years, compared to an estimated $10.4 million budget shortfall for Proposition 3 by 2021.
Those estimates were updated shortly before debate with new numbers suggesting a two-year cost of $49 million for SB96, or five times greater than Prop 3. But Senate leaders and the bill’s sponsor, North Ogden Republican Sen. Allen Christensen, continued to cite the $72 million figure during Senate debate and in conversations with the media following the vote.
“I think you’re very astute if you can figure out that fiscal note,” Christensen said. “I’ve never seen a more complex one in all of my days.”
The new bill is based on the idea that the state will receive a waiver from the federal government signing off on the changes and agreeing to pay for 90 percent of the state’s Medicaid costs. This hypothetical waiver would be the first of its kind in the U.S. If that ironclad plan somehow falls through, a provision in SB96 would automatically repeal the Medicaid expansion.
“That means we’re back to ground zero without any expansion,” Christensen told the Tribune.
The idea of the auto-repeal is that it will, somehow, motivate federal administrators at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to grant the waiver.
“That provision is what gives CMS the motivation to work with us in getting the waiver granted,” Senate Majority Whip Dan Hemmert told the Tribune.
Yeah, we don’t get it either.
The vote today was along party lines, save for one Republican Senator who voted against the new bill. The few Democrats in the Utah Senate spoke against SB96.
“I think it’s time that we do what the people asked us to do and not play games and not come to a dead end on a waiver system,” Democratic State Sen. Gene Davis, told the Tribune. “We probably would have better luck betting on the [Los Angeles] Rams at this point than getting those waivers.”
Republicans argue that the $10.4 million deficit in funds to pay for the expansion gives them the authority to overrule the will of the people—even though their new plan is much more expensive.
“A majority of voters cannot overrule the laws of mathematics,” Sen. Lincoln Fillmore told the Tribune.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article used a quote from Fillmore that has now been removed from The Salt Lake Tribune’s article.