Utah's Medicaid Expansion Future Still Undecided

Feb 12, 2014

State lawmakers are considering Medicaid expansion proposals after Utah Governor Gary Herbert  said he will push for some form of expansion to comply with the federal Affordable Care Act. State Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck (D- Salt Lake) is serving on a governor's committee assigned to evaluate the financial costs of expanding Medicaid.

About 15 percent of Utah residents are uninsured. Chavez-Houck said lawmakers must decide if Utah should participate in a full expansion program to offset the costs of extending health benefits to 111,000 of the state's poorest.

"And here we are, still unable to move and in the meantime people aren't getting covered and we are losing our portion of what should be ours," Chavez-Houck said.

Sen. Todd Weiler (R- District 23) said while serving on Herbert's committee he now understands the initial economic benefits of participating in full expansion to cut uninsurance rates in Utah to less than half.

"The full legislature right now will never jump into Obama Care full expansion.  It just won't happen," Weiler said. "That will die and we will have nothing.  We have to look and see what is politically palatable with the legislature we have right now."

A partial Medicaid expansion, similar to an Arkansas plan, would give low-income residents subsidies to buy private plans through Affordable Care Act marketplaces and would need federal approval.  Weiler said this type of premium assistance plan could see support from Utah lawmakers.