Utah County senator backs down from plan to repeal Medicaid expansion proposition approved by voters

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Sen. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, becomes animates as he speaks on SB171, which now will allow legislators to intervene in court to defend the laws they pass Ñ instead of depending on the attorney general's office to do so.

Prior to last week’s election, state Sen. Jacob Anderegg said he planned to sponsor legislation repealing Proposition 3 if voters approved the initiative fully expanding Medicaid in the state.

The public vote is not “sacrosanct,” said Anderegg, R-Lehi, and Prop 3 would place the state on “the fast road to bankruptcy.”

But voters did approve Prop 3 — by a margin of more than 6 percentage points according to unofficial results — and Anderegg said Thursday that a total repeal of the Medicaid expansion is probably not “palatable."

“I don’t think that my colleagues are interested in doing a full-fledged repeal,” he said.

Election results will be certified later this month, with Proposition 3 taking legal effect in December. The initiative includes a 0.15 percent sales tax increase to generate roughly $90 million, which will then be combined with $800 million in matching federal funding to provide health care coverage to 150,000 low-income Utahns.

Anderegg said he continues to believe that the cost of expansion will outpace the new sales-tax revenue. And that deficit, he said, will cut into the funding available for other state programs like public education.

While there may not be an appetite for a complete repeal, Anderegg was confident that alterations will be made by state lawmakers.

“We can’t fund it under the existing structure under Prop 3,” he said. “Something will be done. I have no idea of guaranteeing what it will look like.”

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said he opposes a repeal of the proposition during his monthly KUED news conference on Wednesday. But he added that adjustments may be necessary to control Medicaid costs under the expanded program.

“Democrats and Republicans alike have called Medicaid the budget buster of all time,” Herbert said. “The question is affordability and fiscal responsibility going forward.”