SALT LAKE CITY — Lawmakers on Monday gave initial approval to a resolution calling on the federal government to give states Medicaid funding in the form of block grants.

Sen. Dan Hemmert, R-Orem, said SCR8 aims to give Utah greater control over how Medicaid dollars are distributed.

"Medicaid is going down a path with more and more spending and more and more needs that are not sustainable at the federal level," said Hemmert, the resolution's sponsor. "More and more is likely to be pushed to the states over the years, and it would be nice to control our own destiny."

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted 5-2 to recommend the resolution to the Senate floor.

Sens. Luz Escamilla and Jim Dabakis, both D-Salt Lake City, voted against the resolution, expressing concerns about the impacts of changing Medicaid's financial structure to a block grant would have.

Escamilla worried the change would place an impossible workload on Utah lawmakers.

"With a 45-day legislative session, you envision the state Legislature taking care of Medicaid when we can't even take care of 1,200 bills?" she asked. "Logistically, this will not happen in three weeks. We would be making the whole health care system in Utah."

Hemmert acknowledged a shift to a block grant structure would be "certainly not a light lift," but he said that shouldn't deter lawmakers from attempting to gain more local control.

But Michah Vorwaller, legislative counsel for the Utah Health Policy Project, urged lawmakers to vote against the resolution, warning that a block grant would "shrink" federal funding for state Medicaid programs over time.

"This would cause a great shift in costs to the state and would greatly increase the number of uninsured and underinsured Utahns, including coverage gap," Vorwaller said.

Escamilla also argued that federal requirements are in place to "protect populations and communities."

Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, said "change is painful," but he added that it's a "recognizable fact that the federal government is overspending."

"We have to cut back someplace," he said. "This is a statement that says, 'We would like to control it rather than the federal government.'"

Hemmert said it will "take a lot of effort and energy" to for the state to manage the programs, but it can be done.