Health Care
5:03 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

State Task Force Narrows Options for Medicaid in Utah

A state legislative committee has decided not to consider a full Medicaid expansion as defined by the federal Affordable Care Act. Instead, the Health System Reform Task Force is considering three alternative options.

Republican Representative Jim Dunnigan says it’s time for Utah to start narrowing down the options and come to a decision on Medicaid. As chair of the Health System Reform Task Force, Dunnigan proposed that the group focus on three options and decide on a recommendation to the Governor. Option 1 is the minimum mandatory expansion only which would cover more seniors, disabled, children, and pregnant women. Option 2 would be a partial expansion to include all adults up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level.  Option 3 would cover those same adults under Medicaid, but would add another category. Those adults up to 133 percent of the poverty level would get a premium subsidy paid for by Medicaid dollars to use in the private insurance market.

“It is an option that does move away from government reliance. Instead of giving them a government card, it helps those people go into the private sector,” Dunnigan says.

Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck flanked by Democratic colleagues at rally for Medicaid expansion
Credit Andrea Smardon

Democrats on the task force wanted to include among the options a full Medicaid expansion as defined under the Affordable Care Act, but that was rejected by the Republican majority. Democratic Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck argued that it is uncertain whether the federal government would approve a partial expansion at the full match rate that Utah is requesting. Even if approved, the process could take months. Health care advocacy organizations have a mixed reaction to the decision.

“The challenge with the options that they’re looking at today are that they’re not simple. They’re going to take time to negotiate with the federal government, and they’re going to take time to implement,” says Lincoln Nehring, Senior Health Policy Analyst at Voices for Utah Children. “But the good news here is, I think there is an acknowledgement that we have to figure out a way to get people below poverty healthcare coverage, so that’s a huge step forward.”

The Task Force plans to give a recommendation to the Governor, who will then make his own decision. Whatever option he chooses will have to be approved by the legislature.