Utah to Expand Medicaid

The governor said Thursday that the state will expand eligibility for the program under the ACA.

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 01: Utah Governor Gary Herbert testifies before the House Energy Committee about the impact of the health care reform act on states during a hearing on Capitol Hill March 1, 2011 in Washington, DC. Utah started running their own version of health insurance exchanges in 2007, before national health care reform was enacted. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
National Journal
Sophie Novack
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Sophie Novack
Jan. 23, 2014, 11:43 a.m.

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.

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