Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Gov. Gary Herbert and challenger Peter Cooke in their second debate on Thursday expressed fundamental disagreement on the expansion of Medicaid. This file photo was from their first debate before the Utah League of Cities and Towns.
Utah gubernatorial candidates spar on Medicaid expansion
Politics » Herbert says plan is unsustainable, while Cooke calls it a “smart business decision.”
First Published Oct 04 2012 04:21 pm • Last Updated Jan 14 2013 11:31 pm

Gov. Gary Herbert blasted proposals to expand Medicaid coverage to more than 50,000 uninsured Utahns, saying it creates an unaffordable culture of dependency, a stark contrast with his Democratic challenger, Peter Cooke, who called it a "smart business decision."

The exchange in the second debate between the two candidates at the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce on Thursday drew a stark contrast on an issue that will demand a decision from the governor before the end of the year.

At a glance

Online taxes

Gov. Gary Herbert said Utah is losing out on $120 million a year in sales taxes that are owed by residents making online purchases. Challenger Peter Cooke said he needs to study the issue more but isn’t sure it would be a win for Utahns to start collecting that tax.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

The Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare," calls for the expansion of Medicaid coverage to families and individuals making less than 138 percent of the poverty level, which comes to $30,700 for a family of four.

Herbert has said the state won’t decide its course until after the election, in hopes that Mitt Romney and a new Congress might repeal the requirement.

But Cooke said deadlines are looming and action needs to be taken.

"We have to accept the Medicaid expansion. It’s a smart business decision because the federal government picks up 100 percent of it," he said. "If the elections turn out a new president and there’s a new concept, that’s one thing. But the train has left the station, and we have to start making decisions as a state."

The federal government has committed to paying the full cost of the expansion through 2016, and a reduced amount, stepping down to 90 percent of the cost, by 2020.

Herbert gave his strongest denunciation of the proposal to date, saying it is unsustainable.

"Is it going to be Chinese dollars" that we receive, Herbert asked, arguing that 40 percent of the federal budget is now borrowed money.

He said the expanded federal program makes more people dependent on the government, erodes self-reliance and limits alternatives, suggesting that charity care could cover the uninsured.


story continues below
story continues below

"We’ve got a mentality developing in this country of entitlement … government every step of our life. I reject that notion," Herbert said. "The road of good intentions is paved, not with gold, but with taxpayer money. Whether it takes you to hell or not, it’s going to cost you a lot of money."

Noting that Utah’s health care costs are the lowest in the nation, Herbert said that "I don’t want to junk a good system that’s working better than anyplace in America for a mediocre, one-size-fits-all system that comes out of Washington, D.C."

Cooke said he would like to see the states receive block grants and have the latitude to implement the program themselves, but he said Utah has to declare its intentions on the expansion by Nov. 16, and stalling only invites the federal government to get more involved.

And it would be good for businesses, hospitals and doctors to have stability in coverage and it could control costs for consumers, Cooke argued.

The Utah Medical Association has endorsed the Medicaid expansion. On Thursday another group, the Utah Citizens’ Counsel, a group of influential Utahns that includes former Gov. Olene Walker and former Gov. Jon Huntsman’s health care adviser, John T. Nielsen, also endorsed the Medicaid expansion.

The group said it would extend coverage to 42,500 Utah parents and 10,400 childless adults, covering 14 percent of the state’s uninsured, helping them to get preventive care that would keep them healthier and lower overall costs.

There is no hard deadline for states to decide whether to expand Medicaid, but a state is expected to tell the federal government by Nov. 16 if it intends to upgrade its health exchange to help shoppers connect with programs like Medicaid.

States that wait too long to decide risk losing hundreds of millions in federal funding.

The expansion would bring $152.3 million in new federal funding to Utah’s doctors and hospitals in 2014 and $3.6 billion over 10 years. The state would have to come up with $6 million to upgrade its eligibility system in the first year, according to the Legislative Fiscal Analyst. Over 10 years, as federal funding is scaled back, the state would have to pay $239 million.

If lawmakers choose to proceed with the expansion, they will have to include the funding in the budget during the upcoming session and Herbert could include the money in his budget proposal in December.

The gubernatorial candidates also had some disagreement on illegal immigration, Cooke said he supports the Utah Compact — a statement of principles emphasizing compassionate immigration policies that was supported by the LDS Church and an array of business and political leaders. He signed the document this week and said he would veto bills inconsistent with the Compact.

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.