Coalition for a Compassionate Utah is an ‘odd alliance’

The Better UTAH Beat airs Tuesday afternoons on KVNU’s For the People. Podcasts of previous episodes are available here.
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Compassion isn’t a conservative value or a liberal value. Compassion is a Utah value. That’s why we’ve recently joined with about a dozen other non-profit organizations to form the Coalition for a Compassionate Utah. Though none of the groups involved have much in common on the surface, we all share one goal: pressure Governor Herbert to expand Medicaid in Utah.

In no particular order, here are the member groups of the Coalition for a Compassionate Utah:

You’ll notice that these groups don’t have a lot in common. In fact, we appear to share so little in common, that a reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune has called us an “odd alliance.”

For example, it isn’t everyday that you see the Sierra Club of Utah and unions working together. And Planned Parenthood and Utah Parents Against Gun Violence probably don’t have a lot of overlap in their mission statements. In fact, with the exception of Voices for Utah Children, Utahns Against Hunger and Planned Parenthood Action Council, none of these organizations have a specific low-income focus. None of them are uniquely committed to Medicaid expansion.

That’s what makes the Coalition for a Compassionate Utah so important. Even though none of our member organizations have mission-specific interest in Medicaid expansion, we all see this as part of our continued goal to make Utah a more just place.

There are many reasons for Governor Herbert to expand Medicaid, but I think what is known as the coverage gap is the most compelling.

Expanding Medicaid in Utah will close what has been called the “coverage gap.” When the Affordable Care Act was originally written, Medicaid coverage was increased to cover individuals who are at 138% of the federal poverty level. Anyone making over that would then be eligible for premium tax subsidies by purchasing their insurance on the health insurance exchange created by the ACA. However, when the Supreme Court ruled on the Affordable Care Act last year, they said states could choose whether or not to expand Medicaid coverage. This created a gap in which those making less than 138% of the poverty level would no longer qualify for Medicaid, but wouldn’t qualify for tax subsidies either.

To illustrate this a little further, consider how it works here in Utah. Currently, the threshold for securing medicaid coverage for the parents of one child is an income that is 44% of the federal poverty level, or just over $8,000 a year for a family of three. If Governor Herbert doesn’t expand Medicaid in Utah, a family of three making $10,000 a year won’t be eligible for Medicaid, but they won’t be eligible for tax credits through the online health exchange, either. That family falls right through the coverage gap.

You can support the Coalition for a Compassionate Utah and help eliminate the coverage gap by going to www.compassionateutah.org to send Governor Herbert an email, asking him to expand Medicaid. We hope you’ll join us.

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