Herbert to Obama: Let’s get flexible

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert met with President Barack Obama this week. His message to the commander-in-chief? Let’s get flexible.

In Washington with the National Governor’s Association, Herbert joined other governors in a meeting with the president Monday.

Herbert said he quoted from Obama’s own handouts that some of the best ideas come from states. Medicaid, the governor said, is one of the areas where Utah could do better job than the federal government.

“My suggestion to him was more flexibility,” Herbert said.

Obama turned to Health and Human Services Secretary Karen Sebelius and told her that was something that needed to be addressed.

Federal officials have already rejected several key provisions in Utah’s request for more local ability to reform Medicaid.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services turned down the state’s plan to raise the Medicaid co-pay from less than $3 to $6. It also won’t allow the state to offer vouchers for residents to use the Utah Health Exchange instead of enrolling in the federal health care plan.

Herbert said after meeting with Obama, he sat down with Sibelius to do discuss the issue. He said he feels in the next few weeks or months Utah will have the ability to obtain waivers, though he wasn’t specific.

State lawmakers are currently considering other health care legislation that would require federal approval.

SB208, Healthcare Compact, sponsored by Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, would permit the state to enter an interstate compact on health care. Under the Healthcare Compact, the state would assume the federal funding for and oversight of programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program or CHIP. Congress would have to give its approval to the states for the compact to take effect.
The thinking is, Adams said, is the state could do a better job of administering the programs and moving the programs closer to the people would save money that could be funneled into patient benefits and provider reimbursements.
Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Georgia have passed legislation joining the compact.

Herbert said he wasn’t familiar enough with the proposal to comment on it.

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