Lives of Utahns compromised as Medicaid decision looms

Published: Thursday, Feb. 27 2014 6:20 p.m. MST

Between the two of them — one disabled and the other her caretaker — they net less than $12,000 a year, landing them right in the gap where coverage may be iffy with any of the proposed plans.

More than 54,000 Utahns earn too little to purchase subsidized health insurance from the private market — available through the federally operated website, www.healthcare.gov — but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.

Herbert intends to strengthen the private insurance market with his proposal, extending help to Utahns making less than $15,500 a year.

"There are good ideas in each plan," said Matt Slonaker, executive director for the Utah Health Policy Project, which advocates for health care access. "The next step is hammering out a deal that gives Utah's low-income residents access to decent health care coverage."

The governor's plan requires negotiation with the federal government, but Slonaker said the latest announcement "gives tremendous momentum to closing Utah's coverage gap."

Each of the proposals faces a steep climb and likely lots of refining before gaining approval of Utah's House of Representatives, Senate and the governor. Aspects of at least two plans also require negotiation with the federal government.

In the meantime, Davis-Stanford hopes lawmakers "realize the seriousness of this."

"There are people actually disabled, chronically ill and even terminally ill waiting on them," she said. "I sometimes want to shake them and say, 'This is my life.'"

Email: wleonard@deseretnews.com, Twitter: wendyleonards

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