SALT LAKE CITY — Close to two-thirds of likely Utah voters support a ballot measure that would significantly expand Medicaid coverage in the state, poll results released Monday show.
The Utah Policy poll found 63 percent of Utahns are in favor of the measure, 30 percent oppose it, and 7 percent don't know.
The survey, carried out by Dan Jones & Associates among 615 likely Utah voters between May 15 and May 25, asked respondents the following:
"If it were on the ballot, would you support or oppose requiring the state to expand Medicaid as proposed under the Affordable Care Act to all those who qualify up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level? The initiative would raise the state sales tax from 4.7 to 4.85 percent to help pay for expansion of medical benefits to low-income Utahns."
Thirty-five percent of respondents were strongly in support of the measure, with 16 percent strongly against it. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent points.
The survey's findings indicate an improvement on the ballot initiative's chances since another Utah Policy poll in November found 59 percent of Utahns in support.
Of those surveyed in the new poll, 94 percent of Democrats were in favor of expansion, as were 71 percent of self-identified independent voters. Forty-eight percent of Republican respondents said they support it, with 43 percent against it and 9 percent unsure.
RyLee Curtis, campaign manager for the Utah Decides Healthcare ballot initiative campaign, said Monday's findings show "Utahns are ready" for full Medicaid expansion.
"Our polling has been very strong and very consistent at that 60 percent range," Curtis said.
The Utah Decides Healthcare campaign has estimated the sales tax increase it is seeking would raise about $91 million in state money and draw down roughly $800 million in federal matching funds.
The group has said that with coverage expanded to all Utahns up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, an estimated 150,000 people would become newly eligible for Medicaid.
"That investment is worth it to Utah voters," Curtis said Monday.
When it was passed, the Affordable Care Act required states to expand Medicaid coverage eligibility to everyone up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. However, a 2012 Supreme Court ruling made that part of the law optional for states. Expansion plans passed by states are subject to federal approval.
Multiple efforts to fully expand Medicaid coverage have failed in the Utah Legislature in recent years, with critics worrying it could wreak havoc on the state budget.
Utah lawmakers passed a bill earlier this year seeking expansion of Medicaid eligibility up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level. If the request were approved as is, Utah would become the first state in the country to qualify for a 90 percent federal funding match for a partial rather than full expansion.
Supporters of the state legislatures' version of expansion have said it would make 70,000 and 90,000 Utahns newly eligible for Medicaid and would carry with it significantly fewer concerns over costs.