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Utah Legislature OKs Only Bare Bones Medicaid Expansion

Source: Public News Service

Public interest groups are disappointed that the Utah state Legislature approved a minimal increase in Medicaid during its recent session, passing up an opportunity to institute full coverage.

The bill approved, House Bill 437, funds coverage for about 16,000 people, while Senate Bill 77 would have covered about 80,000 people. Chase Thomas, policy and advocacy director for the Alliance for a Better Utah, said the state’s cost between covering the groups was a relatively small amount of money.

“The estimates that came out toward the end of the session,” he said, “was that in 2021, it would cost $40 million to the state for HB 437, and $44 million to the state for SB 77 – a difference of $4 million. ”

Thomas said the bill that passed mostly will cover adults without children who have zero income, and parents with children who make less than $8,000 a year. The federal government will cover about $70 million of Utah’s costs under the plan approved, but legislators passed up a plan under the Affordable Care Act that would bring in millions more to cover tens of thousands more Utah residents.

The Legislature has been trying to pass a Medicaid expansion for three years, Thomas said, and the difference between the two plans this year boiled down to partisan politics.

“A lot of groups have gone through negotiating for this, and it seemed like people just wanted something to be done,” he said. “They’ve been trying to figure it out for three years. I guess most of the groups that had a stake in the negotiations felt like this was all they could get through the Republican Legislature.”

Republican legislators said they were concerned about the future costs of adopting full Medicaid coverage. Gov. Gary Herbert has said he will sign the bill into law.

The text of HB 437 is online here. The text of SB 77 is here.

Read Public News Service article here.

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