SALT LAKE CITY - Governor Gary R. Herbert today sent a letter to Utah's Congressional delegation and key members of Congress negotiating healthcare reform, emphasizing the important roles states can play in the process.
"As Governor of the State of Utah, I am aware of the critical importance of health system reform in our country. However, I believe the best place for innovation and policy change is in the individual states, as we have a greater understanding of the specific needs of our citizens," the letter states. As a member of the National Governors' Association Health Care Task Force, Governor Herbert is committed to achieving reform. However, he has a number of concerns about the proposed federal legislation now being considered in the U.S. Senate. Key among those concerns are that the legislation not preclude state-directed reform efforts or place an additional burden on states' budgets. A proposed Medicaid expansion, for example, amounts to an unfunded mandate on states that could have a detrimental impact on Utah's already tight budget.
Governor Herbert was among a dozen governors who participated in a Tuesday conference call hosted by members of the Senate Finance Committee to discuss their pending healthcare reform bill. As the Governor noted in the phone call, it is difficult for governors to fully weigh in on the legislation, which they have not yet seen. Rather than imposing a "one-size-fits-all" national healthcare model, Governor Herbert is ncouraging that Congress work with governors to find the solutions that best meet the needs in each state. "We must continue to recognize that states are the laboratories of innovation and that the best solution to our nation's challenges is to empower states to serve their unique populations in the best ways possible."
The Governor points to the popular Utah Health Exchange as an example, which allows Utah's small business employers to contribute to their employees' health care coverage through a defined contribution health benefit system. Federal legislation, the Governor said, must not "derail this promising effort to provide insurance in a new way to Utah's small business employees, who are the backbone of our economy."
Governor Herbert commends Utah's Senators for crucial leadership in this difficult, yet important debate, and looks forward to a continued partnership on the issue of healthcare reform.