Utah governor, GOP lawmakers planning Washington trip to continue Medicaid negotiations

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SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday that he and some Republican state lawmakers are planning a trip to Washington, D.C., at the end of April with the hope of working toward a Medicaid expansion deal.

Herbert, a Republican, said at his monthly televised news conference on KUED-TV that the group, which includes Senate President Wayne Niederhauser and House Speaker Greg Hughes, is working to set up a meeting with federal health officials.

Here are the highlights:


MEDICIAD

After failing to reach a deal during the legislative session on whether to expand Medicaid, Herbert and state lawmakers decided to form a group of six to tackle the issue with the goal of reaching an agreement by July 31.

Herbert struck a tentative deal with the federal government last year allowing Utah to use a chunk of federal money to enroll the poor in private health insurance plans.

House Republican lawmakers have been concerned about expansion, saying the federal money may not be there in the future and the state would be stuck with the expense. Herbert said Thursday that he and GOP lawmakers want to find out if federal officials will allow them to cap the program's costs.


UTAH ELECTIONS CHANGES

The governor said he's disappointed over infighting among Utah's Republican Party about a new state law that changes how political candidates are nominated.

The state GOP sued over the law, which allows candidates to bypass a caucus and convention and instead compete in a primary, calling the changes unconstitutional and saying they can't comply in time for next year's election. But a federal judge has refused to block the changes aimed at increasing voter participation.

Herbert said he thinks delegates will vote to make needed changes at their August convention to comply with the new system.


WATER

The governor said a spring storm that blanketed Utah in snow Wednesday and Thursday is not enough to make up for a relatively dry winter.

Herbert said throughout the state, Utah precipitation levels are about 50 percent below normal and residents need to be careful about water use going into the summer.

"We're not quite in the same crisis mode that California is," Herbert said, referring to the devastating drought in that state, where officials have ordered mandatory, statewide water cutbacks.

Herbert said Utah water districts and local governments can impose any needed water rationing in their areas, but for now he wants residents to be cautious.

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