5 Things Utah: Q&A With Rep. Dunnigan, SB 96, Medicaid Dental

Today is day 16 in a session that is moving very quickly on health policy.  Some key legislation was (potentially) wrapped up this week, but their is a fair amount of time left in the 45 day session.

Nevertheless, we have a number of independent health policy stories for your reading this month, including interviews with some of the most important players in Utah health policy.  Thanks, as always, for reading our stuff at State of Reform.


DJ 5 Things SignatureWith help from Marjie High.



1. Q&A with Rep. Dunnigan on SB 96

On Friday, Rep. Jim Dunnigan introduced a substitute version of SB 96, which won approval in the House that day.  Marjie High on our team caught up with Dunnigan for an interview Friday evening to talk through the modifications in his substitute bill.

Responding to a question about criticism of the legislature’s approach to Medicaid reform this session and SB 96, Dunnigan offered this:  “It seems like many of the advocates don’t think it goes far enough. I mean two years ago they would have been ecstatic to get everybody in the coverage gap covered and now they don’t even want anybody left on the health exchange. They want them all on Medicaid, which doesn’t serve them well in my opinion.”


2.  Expansion bill draws continued criticism

SB 96 passed quickly through both chambers this week notwithstanding criticism from pro-expansion advocates. Despite crowds at the Capital protesting what some see as a disregard for the will of the people, the bill garnered referedum-proof majorities and was promptly signed by the governor.

Chief criticisms of the law are that it excludes tens of thousands from meaningful access to health care and leaves billions in federal subsidies on the table compared to what would be available with full expansion. While proponents differ with that statement, it’s clear the fight is not likely to end soon. Representatives of the advocacy group Utah Decided Healthcarehave vowed to continue the fight saying, “All options are on the table right now.”

3.  What is in SB 96 anyway?

With the fervor on both sides of SB 96, reporter Marjie High breaks down what is actually in SB 96 for you in this post. Sometimes the policy gets lost in the politics, so High reviews the bill for you.

Bottom line: SB 96 will cover more Utahns than currently, but not as many as a full expansion of Medicaid under Prop 3. New features like work requirements and enrollment caps are controversial, but may help control program costs. As Utah moves forward, questions remain as to whether its unique brand of “partial expansion” waiver will be approved by CMS, or whether the Prop. 3 backstop provided in the Dunnigan’s compromise legislation law will prove necessary after all.


4. Medicaid adult dental expansion

SB 11 moved forward this week to extend Medicaid dental benefits to those 65 and older. The coverage will remain budget neutral thanks to the committment of the University of Utah Dental School network to cover the state portion of the Medicaid reimbursement rate for the new population.

Currently, Medicaid dental covers only adults that are pregnant, disabled, blind or qualify for Child Health Evaluation and Care (CHEC). The bill is expected to bring dental coverage to an estimated 10,200 new adults. All sides of expansion debates have praised the bill as an important step forward to protecting vulnerable Utahns.

5.  Utahns worried about health care affordability

The results of Healthcare Value Hub survey, released last week, revealed that 4 out of 5 Utahns are worried about the affordability of health care. Most surveyed currently had insurance coverage, but indicated that uncertainty about prices and cost caused worry.

In an effort to increase cost transparency, Representative Brad Daw has introduced HB 178. The bill creates a commission to study an integrated, statewide cost transparency tool for common health care procedure costs. The tool would have to be “user-friendly” and searchable across health systems to provide for meaningful cost comparisons.