Week in Review – February 29-March 4, 2016

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Legislative Update: Week #6

H.B. 437 Health Care Revisions

After months of discussions and negotiations, Rep. Jim Dunnigan has released his new, uniquely Utah solution to help those at the bottom of the healthcare coverage gap. Many business, community and advocacy groups are supportive of this proposed legislation.

H.B. 437 will provide a program of coverage through an expansion of traditional Medicaid for those most in need of assistance who don’t qualify at this time. It will allow the state to budget according to available funds in order to preserve services and benefits to the core group of 300,000 current Medicaid recipients, including children and disabled adults. Hospitals, as the main beneficiaries of Medicaid reimbursements, have agreed to pay 45 percent of the state’s costs, up to $13.6 million.

Those who begin work while receiving coverage will continue to receive benefits for a guaranteed 12-month transition period, at which time a determination will be made regarding further eligibility. The program will be administered through the Accountable Care Organizations already in place to administer Medicaid.

The newly-covered populations will include the chronically homeless, individuals involved in the justice system and those in need of substance abuse and mental health treatment.

Homelessness is growing throughout Utah, and a number of proposed bills this year would assist cities and counties in better dealing with it in a more comprehensive way. A part of this would include helping people receive medical care to treat problems that are impeding their ability to take care of themselves, including mental health and substance abuse issues.

Last year, Rep. Eric Hutchings sponsored H.B. 348 to begin to implement justice system reforms (JRI) and make treatment options more available outside of incarceration. In some cases, substance abuse problems and unattended mental health needs are the driving factor in involvement in the criminal justice system and for those individuals, money and resources are better spent on dealing with the underlying challenges, rather than the manifestation of them. This bill would make that easier to do, and improve lives in the process.

This expansion under the current Medicaid program allows the state to avoid many of the pitfalls that have been a part of most previous proposals. With H.B. 437, the state is in control of costs and can budget each year to the funds available; the expansion groups will not be prioritized over children and the disabled in the traditional Medicaid population. This proposed legislation works with other ongoing initiatives in addressing existing problems and utilizes resources in a more efficient manner, which should lead to better outcomes for individuals and cost savings for the state.

House tribute to families of fallen soldier

On Feb 28, 2016 the Utah House paid tribute to families of fallen Utah soldiers. “We are committed to remembering that the preservation of our liberty comes at a price, and that price is often paid by young 6men and women who selflessly put themselves in harm’s way to protect the lives of innocent people in lands far from home,” a clerk read from the official citation in part.

Rep. Fawson, who served in the military and was deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, said “I wish to comfort those who still mourn, to give light to those whose pathways may be dark, to offer hope to all who look forward to a brighter day, to echo the voice of those who are no longer with us, and to express love.”
“As your lawmakers and your representatives, you need to know that we are here and that we are your voice,” said Speaker Hughes.

China’s delegation visit

China’s Liaoning Province delegation visited the Capitol Thursday, February 25. During their visit the Utah Legislature adopted concurrent resolution SCR17, which was sponsored by House Speaker Greg Hughes and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, that celebrates and renews the state’s unique 10-year state-to-province relationship with its Chinese counterpart.

61The resolution was signed by Speaker Hughes, President Niederhauser and Governor Herbert during a ceremony in the Gold Room. The purpose of the Liaoning delegation’s visit was to initiate new business, trade, educational and cultural opportunities and partnerships with Utah.

“In recent years, China has emerged as an economic powerhouse and has strongly signaled that it has no intentions of relinquishing this new role,” said House Speaker Hughes. “Many Utahns will benefit from the deepening partnership between Utah and Liaoning Province in tourism, trade, science and education that was fostered by this visit.”

Utah Aerospace Day62

The Utah chapter of the Aerospace States Association (ASA) was announced February 26 at the State Capitol. The Director of Government Operations for Boeing, Steven Hendrickson, read a declaration from Governor Herbert that established Feb. 26 as Utah Aerospace Day. Industry partners had exhibits in the Capitol that included live demonstrations of manned and unmanned aerial systems in various locations across Utah, as well as exhibits that showcased Utah’s aerospace assets.