Governor Herbert seeking federal approval of Healthy Utah Plan

- SALT LAKE CITY, (ABC 4 Utah) – Governor Gary Herbert is confident in his plan to bridge the gap for uninsured Utahns, as negotiations move forward with the federal government.

Last week a team from Utah went to Washington D.C. to get the negotiations underway for the Healthy Utah plan.

Governor Herbert says the plan was well received and he hopes to have an agreement with the feds soon.

"The concept of maximum flexibility given to the states to develop their own programs, an alternative to Medicaid expansion, is one that seems to be acknowledged and understood in Washington right now," said Herbert at his monthly news conference with the press.

He is seeking flexibility to use $258,000,000 in the form of a federal block grant to provide 111,000 Utahns with a private insurance plan.

The Governor believes the timing is right to get approval.

In the meantime about 60,000 Utahns remain in limbo.

"Most of these are in households that are working, but even minimal healthcare costs can really set that family back," said Lincoln Nehring.

Nehring is a policy analyst with Voices for Utah Children, an advocacy group keeping close tabs on the issue.

He believes the plan can close the gap and he likes its chances with the feds.

"Because most of the components have been approved by the federal government in pieces in other states I think it's very likely the federal government will approve the bulk of the Governor's plan," said Nehring.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle is here at home though.

The Utah Senate and House must also approve.

Leaders in the House have said they will not agree with accepting federal funds, but the Governor insists he is gaining ground.

"The fact that it was not allowed to come up for a vote is an indication that the House voice has not been heard," said Herbert.

One thing included in the Healthy Utah Plan that has not been approved by the federal government in other states is the work requirement.

Herbert says that is one area that may require some give and take.

He will be in Washington D.C. in a couple of weeks to personally meet with Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius.

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