OpEd: How is this expansion? Better Utah weighs in on HB437 and Federal Poverty Levels

This afternoon, the Executive Appropriations Committee voted to fund Rep. Dunnigan’s Medicaid proposal, House Bill 437, at extremely low percentages of the Federal Poverty Level. The Appropriations Committee listed only those who are at 0 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, or 55 percent for a parent with a child, are eligible for coverage under Dunnigan’s proposal.

The Alliance for a Better Utah issued the following statement:

“How is this expansion?” asked Chase Thomas of the Alliance for a Better Utah. “The legislature has literally stated that an individual must have no income, not one penny, to qualify for Dunnigan’s expansion proposal. Even worse, if you are a parent supporting a child, you need to make less than $8,000 a year.

“The community that came together compromising for this bill expected it to cover at least up to those making around 10 percent of the FPL, an already paltry level of income around $1,000 per year,” Thomas said. “But to lower that down to 0 percent is worse than we would have ever guessed. Utahns expected action on Medicaid, but the Legislature’s actions to create such meager FPL limits only continues to demonstrate how disingenuous this whole process truly was.”

House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan’s (R – Taylorsville) sponsored HB 437, which would implement a health coverage improvement program through Medicaid waiver authority granted to states before the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and establishes a funding mechanism for the waiver program.

On March 4, HB437 passed out of the Utah House of Representatives and also March 8, it passed out of the Senate Health and Human Services Standing Committee by a 5-1 vote.

“It continues to confound me that Representative Dunnigan and so many of our legislators believe that this is the best that they can do,” said Thomas. “This bill does not nearly do enough. It leaves tens of thousands of low-income Utahns to continue living without health coverage and fails to take advantage of millions of dollars of available federal funds. In terms of sound policy, this bill is a failure.”

“We praise all those who continue to believe that we can and should do more,” continued Thomas. “We owe it to all those Utahns who continue to suffer and die without coverage to continue working towards a solution that fulfills our moral obligations to care for all those in need. Those individuals can’t be kept waiting any longer.”

Chase Thomas serves as the Better Utah’s policy and advocacy director.

See the OpEd on KCSG Television here.

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