Despite earning the support of a majority of Utah voters in November, Republican lawmakers in the Beehive State just voted to partially repeal Medicaid expansion.
In addition, Utah Republicans’ alternative to Medicaid expansion, which passed the state senate on Monday on a 22-7 vote, would be seven times more costly than the initiative approved last year, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Proposition 3, which got more than three times the number of required signatures to get on Utah’s 2018 statewide ballot last spring, and was passed by a seven-point margin in November, was meant to expand Medicaid for approximately 150,000 low-income Utahns. The language of Proposition 3 stipulated that Medicaid would be expanded for Utahns who make up to 138 percent above the federal poverty line, which would mean the federal government would cover 90 percent of the cost associated with expanding Medicaid in accordance with the Affordable Care Act.
However, the Republican-sponsored alternative to Proposition 3 only allows for Medicaid expansion for those making 100 percent of the federal poverty limit, meaning the federal government would only cover 70 percent of the cost. The Tribune reported that the state would have to spend $72 million on Medicaid expansion over the next two years, as opposed to just over $10 million under Proposition 3.
Utah Republicans argued that while their legislation — Senate Bill 96 — would initially be more costly, the state would be successful in its efforts to apply for a waiver from the federal government that would keep the 90-10 match despite fewer people being covered under their bill. But according to the Tribune, no other state has successfully applied for such a waiver. And if that waiver request is denied, then Medicaid expansion would be repealed in its entirety under Senate Bill 96.
In a rally at the state capitol in Salt Lake City last week, Alan Ormsby, who is the Utah state director for the AARP, accused lawmakers of “want[ing] to circumvent the democratic will of the people.” But state senator Jacob Anderegg (R) dismissed those concerns, stating that voters approved Proposition 3 because they didn’t have “all the facts.”
“We really do understand what Utah decided. We really demand a clean Medicaid expansion,” Ormsby said at the rally.
The bill now moves to the Republican-controlled House, which is expected to send the legislation to the desk of Governor Gary Herbert (R). According to ThinkProgress, Herbert is expected to sign the bill into law.
Jake Shepherd is a freelance writer from Cleveland, Ohio. He enjoys poring through financial disclosure statements, spirited debate, and good scotch. He remains eternally optimistic about the Browns. Email him at jake.d.shepherd.21 (at) hotmail (dot) com.