On Friday, the Governor’s Mansion was buzzing with Medicaid expansion supporters as the Coalition for a Compassionate Utah kicked off its first official meeting. The coalition is a diverse collection of nonprofit organizations throughout Utah urging Gov. Gary Herbert to expand Medicaid to over 123,000 Utahns who currently go without health care.
"We got together and decided that it was important for us to take a stand in addition to or in support of all the groups that actually work on lower income issues," said Maryann Martindale, Executive Director of Alliance for a Better Utah. "We feel like even though this isn't our mission, it's everybody's mission."
The governor has delayed accepting the Affordable Care Act’s funding for expansion, fearing a hasty decision could lead to Utahns not getting the support they need. The coalition believes the delays are unnecessary and negatively impact the Utah health care system.
"Every time he waits, it's several million dollars a month that we don't get to support Medicaid expansion and we'd like to encourage him," said Martindale. "There's no reason to wait; let's do it. Let's pull the trigger. Let's get these people covered. Let's get these federal funds that are already allocated for it and let's get people health care."
If the governor was to choose to expand Medicaid, many adults under age 65 with incomes up to 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level would be eligible. This translates to a family of four with an annual income of approximately $32,000 and a $15,000 annual salary for a single person.
25 states have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and 15 states have decided against expansion. Gov. Herbert said he expects, working with legislators, to have a solution for Utah by the end of the year.
Members of the Coalition for a Compassionate Utah include Alliance for a Better Utah, Voices for Utah Children, League of Women Voters of Utah, Utahns Against Hunger, Utah Parents Against Gun Violence, Planned Parenthood Action Council, Equality Utah, Sierra Club, Utah AFL/CIO, Utah Votes, and HEAL Utah.
Taylor Halversen is a senior at Utah State University, majoring in Communication Studies and Liberal Arts.