Medicaid advocates in Utah have successfully secured enough signatures to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot in November.
According to The Hill, the group Utah Decides Healthcare submitted roughly 165,000 signatures to election officials in order to put statewide Medicaid expansion on the 2018 ballot, which is approximately 52,000 signatures more than what is required for ballot questions in Utah.
This is particularly significant, given that Medicaid expansion was originally proposed by the Obama administration, and Utah is considered one of the reddest states in the country. A Gallup survey in 2014 found that Republican candidates have an electoral advantage of roughly 33.1 percentage points.
The group is calling for “clean” expansion, meaning there would be no strings attached for Utahans who qualify for expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA’s expansion of state health insurance programs was meant to cover people who didn’t make enough to purchase private health insurance plans, but who made too much to qualify for Medicaid under existing law.
The ballot question is poised to win in November, as roughly two-thirds of Utahans are in support of expanding healthcare for working-class Utahans, according to a February 2018 poll commissioned the Salt Lake Tribune and the Utah University’s Hinckley Institute of Politics.
Even though Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R) approved Medicaid expansion, Herbert’s expansion program only provides healthcare for people making up to 100 percent of the federal poverty limit ($20,000 for a family of three) rather than 133 percent of the federal poverty limit, as the ACA stipulates. Gov. Herbert’s expansion plan also comes with a work requirement. All told, the Herbert plan would only cover between 60,000 and 70,000 people, even though approximately 100,000 Utahans qualify for expansion.
In addition to Utah, health advocates in Idaho and Nebraska are also trying to get Medicaid expansion on the ballot in time for the November election.
Michael Boone is a freelance journalist and columnist writing about politics, government, race, and media. He graduated from Texas Southern University’s School of Communication, and lives in Houston’s Third Ward.