Hospital association supports Medicaid expansion for low-income Utahns
Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government has said it will fully fund expansion in states that opt in, decreasing federal funding to 90 percent after the first three years.
Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, said taxpayer money will go toward helping those in other states if Utah does not take advantage of the expansion.
"The feds aren't going to give us a rain check if we start later," she said.
Utah is not the only state still undecided on the matter, but states that delay a decision or choose not to expand coverage will forgo available federal funds. Some lawmakers and others in the state, however, have questioned whether Utah should make a decision hinging on uncertain federal funds.
As of late October, Utah was among 21 states that had not signed on for Medicaid expansion, and one of five looking into Medicaid options, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
Gov. Herbert has said he is still deciding whether to expand the state's Medicaid coverage, but he plans to declare a position on the matter before the start of the upcoming legislative session, which begins in late January.
"It's a very complex issue. It's easy for people to have a knee-jerk, do this or do that, or don't do this or don't do that, without understanding all the ramifications or complications," the governor said during his monthly news conference on KUED Ch. 7, last Thursday.
A study commissioned by the Utah Department of Health earlier this year found that expanding Medicaid to an additional 123,000 Utahns could save the state more than $11 million in fiscal year 2015.
The governor said that's worth considering but added: "I don't know that it's going to tip the scales one way or the other. In a $13 billion budget, $11 million is not enough to redirect our priorities, but it's certainly a sizable amount of money."
It is estimated that nearly 60,000 currently uninsured Utahns would not be able to afford health insurance if the state does not adopt an expansion of Medicaid.
Herbert pledged his Medicaid expansion plan will take care of the most vulnerable Utahns but also protect taxpayers, both in the short and long term.
"I think people do need to be taken care of," he said.
Herbert was not available for comment Wednesday.
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