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Peter Cooke, Utah Governor Candidate, Criticizes Health Care Compact

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Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a health care compact bill in her state.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a health care compact bill in her state.

The Democratic nominee for governor of Utah is attacking the Republican incumbent's decision to enter the state into a health care compact for Medicare.

Peter Cooke, who is challenging Gov. Gary Herbert (R), said the decision earlier this year to sign the legislation will hurt those who use Medicare and Medicaid, and have an impact on the state's ability to deliver health care services. The health care compact, which has been backed by seven states, would allow states to take block grants from the federal government for health care services then join together to manage the health care programs. The compact is seen by some as an objection to the Affordable Care Act.

Cooke, a retired Army major general, said that Herbert should not have backed an idea that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), a frequent opponent of President Barack Obama's policies, rejected in her state. Brewer vetoed an Arizona health care compact bill due to concerns that it would hinder her authority.

"Even Arizona wouldn't go along with it because it is so crazy," Cooke told The Huffington Post.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported in March that Herbert signed the bill as part of his quest to make all federal funds to states block grants. At the time, his spokeswoman declined to give specifics for his support of the legislation.

"The governor supports the concept of block-granting all federal funds to states," Herbert spokeswoman Ally Isom told the Salt Lake Tribune at the time.

Several other states have signed onto the compact, including Missouri, where Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon allowed the law to take effect without his signature. Nixon told the Columbia Missourian in 2011 that he appreciated the flexibility for the state to manage health care but had concerns over funding.

Legislation to enact the compact nationally is pending in Congress. Kaiser Health News reported that Montana Gov. Brian Schweiker (D) vetoed a compact bill in his state due to concerns over whether Congress would pass a bill.

Cooke believes the compact proposal would harm those in Utah, he said, particularly those enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid, and that a move to block grants could cause the state to lose federal funds over time. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that the compact could cost Utah $217 million by 2014 and $1 billion by 2022 since the block grants would not match inflation.

"It's radically taking advantage of those on Medicare and Medicaid," Cooke said. "What they are trying to do is do away with Medicaid and Medicare in our state. They are trying to set an example for other states to say they'll take less money."

Cooke has been distancing himself from the national Democratic platform on several issues, including opposing abortion and gay marriage. He told the Deseret News that he is not "a typical Democrat" and cited his Mormon faith as forming his beliefs.

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