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Utah gov decides to expand Medicaid

The governor thinks doing nothing is not an option for Medicaid expansion.
The governor thinks doing nothing is not an option for Medicaid expansion.Chip Sommodavilla/Getty Images

Utah Governor Gary Herbert-R announced today he has decided to expand access to Medicaid for the state’s neediest citizens. The governor has taken months to make a decision under considerable pressure from those for expansion, against expansion, and doing nothing. Thursday he said, “Doing nothing … I’ve taken off the table. Doing nothing is not an option.”

Herbert says about 60,000 individuals will gain coverage under the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” The governor made his long-awaited announcement during his monthly news conference for PBS station KUED Channel 7 on the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City. He will announce more details as early as next week. You can watch the news conference on Sunday, January 26 at 5:30 p.m.

The legislature’s Health Reform Task Force has made two recommendations, and Herbert has not indicated which he will select or if he has another plan. The 2014 Session of the Utah Legislature is scheduled to begin in Salt Lake City next Monday, and as they control the budgeting process, the governor has vowed to work with them to find a way to fund Medicaid expansion in the future.

The first Task Force option allows public money to buy private insurance for those under the federal poverty level. Those at or above that level would be able to use the federal health exchange and receive federal subsidies to help pay for the coverage.

The second option is to use public money to purchase coverage through private insurance for anyone at 138 percent of the federal poverty level, providing Medicaid to 111,000 Utahns. Families of four with an income of $32,000 or 138 percent of the federal poverty level would be able to have 100 percent of the cost covered through 2017 if the governor chooses to allow full expansion. The feds would continue to cover no less than 90 percent of the cost after 2017.

State Senator and head of the Utah Democratic Party Jim Dabakis is pleased that Herbert is moving forward. In a statement he said, “We trust this is not a conditional acceptance, and that the Utah Legislature will see the wisdom in joining so many other states in providing a hand up to [people] desperate for affordable healthcare.

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Source: Utah Democratic Party, Huffington Post, Salt Lake Tribune