Utah will join the growing list of red states opting into Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.
Governor Gary Herbert said Thursday that the state would expand Medicaid coverage under the health law. The governor had previously refrained from opting in.
"Doing nothing ... I've taken off the table. Doing nothing is not an option," Herbert said at his monthly news conference, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Many of the 407,000 uninsured Utahns would be newly able to access health insurance under the law. Nearly half of the state's uninsured nonelderly are eligible for financial assistance, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report.
However, failing to expand Medicaid in the state was causing 58,000--or 14 percent of the uninsured--to fall into a coverage gap, the report says. These individuals had incomes too high to qualify for traditional Medicaid, but too low to be eligible for federal subsidies on the ACA exchanges.
"That's not right, it's not fair, and I'm going to work with the Legislature to find a solution to that problem," Herbert said. "We have 45 days and we will have a solution by the end of this session."
The governor is considering two expansion plans offered by the state legislature, both of which involve using the Medicaid dollars toward private plans. A similar strategy to be implemented in Arkansas has been approved by the administration.
Pressure is increasing on Republican governors who have thus far declined to expand Medicaid in their states, denying coverage to large numbers of low-income residents. Taxpayers still end up paying for the expansion, but those in non-expanding states do not reap the benefits.
Utah will be the 26th state, along with D.C., to opt in to Medicaid expansion.