Deseret News
Members of the Utah Senate debate a plan to replace the voter-approved full Medicaid expansion at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday, Feb. 4, 2019.

Utah lawmakers are putting the state on a fiscally irresponsible path and undermining the will of state voters by repealing the Medicaid expansion ballot initiative. These lawmakers want to spend more state taxpayer dollars to cover fewer Utahns with health care coverage instead of accepting the proposal that was overwhelmingly approved by voters just 90 days ago.

It does not make sense for the state to spend its Medicaid funds and still leave 80,000 people without insurance coverage. Proposition 3 provides Medicaid expansion — which covers adults making $17,236 a year, and families of three making $29,435 a year, at a 90-10 match rate with the federal government paying 90 percent of the costs and states paying the remaining 10 percent. The repeal effort would mean fewer federal dollars under a 70-30 match rate, and require more in state funding.

Utah legislators are also betting on a federal approval for a new Medicaid plan that is a long shot. They want Washington to give an OK to a partial expansion. That is not something federal officials can do under existing health care laws.

Not only would the state get more federal funding for health care under Proposition 3, it would also be able to save state taxpayer dollars by expanding. That has been the experience in other states that have already adopted Medicaid expansion.

Evidence from the last six years of expanding Medicaid shows us that Medicaid expansion generates budget savings and positive budget results for states from reduced costs in state-funded health care programs, to savings in a state’s traditional Medicaid program and correctional heath costs, among other areas. Depending on the state, savings generated from expanding Medicaid can offset or exceed the 10 percent state share of expansion costs that states will gain in 2020.

Families USA reviewed state Medicaid expansion programs and found savings across the board in states with Republican and Democratic administrations. These included: Michigan: $306 million in revenue and savings attributable to Healthy Michigan reported by the House Fiscal Agency for fiscal year 2016-17. Montana: In 2017, the savings to the state budget outweighed the costs of the expansion. These savings included reductions in traditional Medicaid costs of $40 million in the first two years of expansion. Louisiana: In the 2017 calendar year, Medicaid expansion saved the state $199 million. For 2018, savings were projected to be $350 million. Ohio: In August 2018, Ohio’s Department of Medicaid issued a report on the state’s Medicaid expansion that concluded, “Medicaid expansion is manageable and affordable now and into the future.”

8 comments on this story

Utah’s legislature is moving quickly to repeal Proposition 3 which is the fiscally responsible and sustainable approach to expanding Medicaid. Rather than allowing more than 150,000 Utahns to receive care right now under the voter-approved Proposition 3, Utah lawmakers are pushing a strategy to pass a bill which would cover half the number of Utahns in need of health coverage, with greater financial burden to the state. Utahns should not be fooled: repealing Medicaid expansion is fiscally irresponsible.