Too much politics, too little pragmatism on Medicaid expansion

Why is the Utah legislature even thinking about debating expanding Medicaid for our state? Is there any motive other than an intra-partisan agenda here?

Here are the facts: Governor Gary Herbert has come out in support of expanding Medicaid. House Speaker Becky Lockhart has not, believing that doing so would mean Utah supports Obamacare. Lockhart and her followers worry that accepting generous federal funding suggests that our state not only endorses the Affordable Care Act, but that expanding Medicaid is thus a tacit endorsement of President Obama himself.

Shouldn’t this really be about the 123,000 Utahns who will have access to affordable healthcare as a result of the expansion? There is too much politics and too little pragmatism in this debate.

Here are some more facts:

  • In the next ten years, Utahns will pay $6.4 billion in federal taxes toward Medicaid. If Medicaid is expanded, eligible Utahns would receive $3.5 billion in federal funding back into the state.

  • The federal government would pay 100% of costs through 2017 for those 123,000 Utahns earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. This funding would not cost Utah anything, nor would it increase Utah’s debt.

  • However, if Utah does not expand Medicaid, it will get none of this money and assistance.

  • According to research by the Huntsman Cancer Hospital, this funding will help bridge the gap between those who currently receive Medicaid, and the 66,000 Utahns who have jobs but still make less than $11,490 a year.

  • These people are living in poverty, need financial assistance when it comes to health insurance, but do not currently qualify for Medicaid.

Expanding Medicaid may likely become a matter of life and death for some Utahns. According to a new study by Harvard University and City University of New York, as many as 17,000 Americans nationwide may die if states do not choose to expand Medicaid. The study maintains that

Low-income adults in states that have opted out of Medicaid expansion will forego gains in access to care, financial well-being, physical and mental health, and longevity that would be expected with expanded Medicaid coverage.

But Utah politicians are instead turning their backs on money that Utah may not have access to without the Affordable Care Act, and that could actually save the lives of some Utahns.

Expanding Medicaid is about supporting Utahns—it shouldn’t be about whether Utahns support President Obama or his Affordable Care Act. Governor Herbert has said that he hopes “we can all set aside politics and political ambition and focus on the work of the people of Utah.” This could not be more true.

Some are worried that the decision about Medicaid expansion may not be finalized before the legislative session is over. It is time to act now. Contact your representative and tell them why you think expanding Medicaid is important. On February 20th at noon, there will also be a Medicaid expansion rally at the Utah Capitol Building. You can follow organizations such as Utahns for the Medicaid Expansion’s Facebook page for more news.

You can tell Speaker Becky Lockhart to quit playing politics, as well as contact your own legislator, by clicking HERE and HERE.

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