Activists have been pushing to expand Medicaid in Utah for some time now. Pressure to do so increased when a large portion of Obamacare was predicated on Medicaid expansion. Multiple legislative sessions in Utah held many debates – sometimes contentious – about whether the state should expand Medicaid, and if so, by how much. Full expansion was rejected, as was Governor Herbert’s Healthy Utah plan and the Legislature’s compromise bill Utah Cares.
Finally, in 2016 the Legislature passed a form of Medicaid expansion. It balances various stakeholder concerns regarding providing insurance to the neediest Utahns in a way that protects the taxpayer. Here is the new population covered by the expansion:
- Parents with dependent children earning up to 60 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL)
- Adults without dependent children earning up to 5 percent of the FPL who are:
- Chronically homeless
- Involved in the justice system through probation, parole, or court-ordered treatment for substance abuse or mental health treatment
- In need of substance abuse treatment or mental health treatment
With the amount of money allocated to expansion, officials expected it to cover 16,000 people, but costs were underestimated. Since the funding is fixed rather than open-ended, there can’t be cost overruns like those feared with the previous expansion plans. Instead, about 10,000 people will be covered by the new expansion plans.
Since Medicaid is a federal program and the majority of the money comes from the federal government, Utah must ask permission to enact this change. Expansion was passed in early 2016 and then a public comment period was held throughout the following summer.
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