Medicaid

Officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are in Utah this week on a two-day trip to talk with state lawmakers and advocates. The visit was ostensibly a chance for Utahns to meet the new regional director, but healthcare advocates say they also got a pep talk to sign more people up for insurance, and to continue pushing for a Medicaid expansion in the state. 

Brian Grimmett

Governor Gary Herbert said this week that the state has a moral obligation to provide some type of health coverage for those living in poverty. House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart says she doesn’t want to accept any federal dollars to do that. Now Republican House lawmakers are working to find a solution that will solve the so-called Medicaid gap, but will also be politically acceptable to those in their own party.

Andrea Smardon

The Utah House of Representatives opened this year’s legislative session with some bold remarks from Republican Speaker Rebecca Lockhart, challenging Governor Gary Herbert.

Just like speeches from years’ past, Speaker Lockhart railed against the over-reach of the federal government, and insisted that Utah resist. But this time, she targeted Governor Herbert who has recently said that he favors some limited expansion of Medicaid in the state.

File: Governor Gary Herbert
Utah Education Network

Governor Gary Herbert says he’s decided what the state will do about expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. But he’s not ready yet to announce just what that is.

Herbert told reporters at his monthly news conference on KUED this morning that he’ll announce his decision during the legislative session, which starts next week. But he wouldn’t go into detail about just how the state plans to work with the federal government on Medicaid.

After weeks of waiting, thousands of Utahns will find out if they qualify for Medicaid. Confusion and technical difficulties with the federal exchange website healthcare.gov have left some Utahns’ applications in limbo.

Utah has been awarded 5.4 million dollars from the federal government for its efforts to get more children covered by health insurance. The performance bonus comes from the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009. For the second year in a row, Utah is one of 23 states to receive it. But some advocacy groups say there are still too many uninsured Utah children.

Utahns who receive health insurance through the state’s Primary Care Network will likely have more time before they are cut from the program. PCN was set to expire at the end of this year, but state health officials say they have verbal confirmation from the federal government that the program will be funded for another year.

Andrea Smardon

Some of Utah’s healthcare powerbrokers are honing in on a plan to expand Medicaid that they think the state legislature might approve. At a healthcare conference in downtown Salt Lake City Thursday, former lieutenant governor Greg Bell - now president and CEO of the Utah Hospital Association – laid out his vision.

Bell says the state’s decision on Medicaid expansion will really be decided by the Utah legislature.  

Andrea Smardon

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.

Andrea Smardon

Utah Governor Gary Herbert received letters Wednesday from those encouraging him to expand Medicaid and provide health insurance to more low-income citizens in the state. Medical groups, religious groups, and advocates for the poor filled the rotunda at the capitol asking the Governor and their state representatives to rise above politics in making this decision.

On behalf of the Episcopal Diosese of Utah, Reverend Canon Mary June Nestler reads from a letter to Governor Herbert.

File: Governor Gary Herbert
Utah Education Network

Governor Gary Herbert has still not made a decision about expanding Medicaid benefits, but at his monthly KUED news conference today he did shed some light on the decision making process.

For the past several months Governor Herbert has insisted that all options are still on the table when it comes to the expansion of Medicaid benefits, but his most recent comments suggest that he’s looking at finding some sort of middle ground.

More than 4000 Utahns have been stalled in their efforts to get health insurance because federal and state computer systems are not yet able to communicate.  Officials from the state Department of Workforce Services say Utah was ready when the exchange went online October 1st, but the federal system was not.

Brian Grimmett

A group of non-profit and advocacy organizations launched a new coalition today that is asking the governor to expand Medicaid benefits.

The new Coalition for a Compassionate Utah is made up of 11 non-profit and advocacy groups including Voices for Utah Children, the League of Women Voters, Equality Utah and the Alliance for a Better Utah. The Alliance’s Maryann Martindale says she believes the coalition brings a whole new set of voices to the governor’s attention that don’t typically get involved in health care advocacy.

Brian Grimmett

Governor Gary Herbert says he’s getting closer to making a decision about Medicaid expansion in Utah, and that it could come by the end of the year.

Herbert says as he learns more about the impacts of expanding Medicaid benefits, it is becoming clearer what his decision will be. But, he wouldn’t yet rule out any of the options, or variations of options, that he’s been presented with.

Andrea Smardon

As governor Gary Herbert weighs a decision on whether to extend Medicaid coverage to more low-income Utahns, a group of healthcare leaders appointed by the state has spent the summer exploring the options. Their findings will be presented to the governor at his health summit next week. Among those options, is to expand charity care in the state. KUER looks at what forms of charity care already exist in Utah, and whether this model could be a realistic alternative to expanding Medicaid.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert says he’ll likely make a decision on whether to expand Medicaid in the state by early next year. Utah is among a handful of states facing the decision as the Affordable Health Act rolls out this fall.  But the Governor told reporters at his monthly KUED news conference, he’s not in a hurry. 

Utah lawmakers have another study to consider as they make their decision on whether to expand Medicaid in the state. The Utah Department of Health hired BYU Public Policy Professor Sven Wilson to produce an independent economic analysis. Dr. Wilson presented his findings to the state’s Medicaid community workgroup this week. He says state lawmakers are missing the big picture on Medicaid.

The Salt Lake County Council has unanimously approved an audit of its mental health care system.  The decision comes after Valley Mental Health announced it would no longer serve hundreds of patients due to a reduction in funding.

Salt Lake County Council Chairman Steve Debry says he and other council members learned that Valley Mental Health would be shrinking its patient rolls by reading the newspaper.

“We were caught off guard and by surprise. To put it mildly, we’re upset with it,” Debry says.  

Utah officials look to Arkansas for ideas on Medicaid expansion, a state lawmaker’s bill could take children away from murder suspects, and the Utah House of Representatives prepares themselves for the possibility of impeachment proceedings against Attorney General John Swallow.

Utah officials are keeping a close eye on Arkansas as they consider whether to expand Medicaid in the state. The Utah Department of Health held an informational conference call Thursday with Arkansas’ Medicaid Director Andy Allison. Members of Utah’s Medicaid Expansion community workgroup see promise in Arkansas’ unique model. It gives eligible low-income residents Medicaid expansion dollars to buy private health insurance. 

A long awaited report shows that Utah could save millions of dollars by expanding Medicaid, the Boy Scouts of America vote to include gay youth, and Latter-day Saints remember the life of Frances Monson.

Andrea Smardon

Utah could save millions of dollars and provide health insurance to about 123,000 people if the state expands Medicaid. That was the conclusion of an independent cost-benefit analysis commissioned by the state. 

Utah lawmakers are considering a bill that would encourage citizens to buy private long-term care insurance. More than 35 states already have this type of public-private partnership.   

Utah insurance broker Craig Oberle told the state Health and Human Services committee that people don’t like to think about long term care, and how much it might cost.

“We all know the baby boom generation and what’s happening, it’s an absolute tsunami that’s coming,” Oberle said.

The public turns out in droves to discuss the Sugar House Streetcar, Great Salt Lake Minerals is scaling back their expansion plans, and the Medicaid Community Workgroup meets at the capitol for the first time.

Andrea Smardon

A select group of healthcare providers, advocates, and community leaders met at the State Capitol Tuesday to discuss Medicaid, and the state’s pending decision on whether to expand the program to include more uninsured, low-income Utahns. Utah Department of Health Executive Director David Patton brought together about 20 people for the Medicaid workgroup.

The Utah Department of Health announced that it will allow open enrollment for its health coverage plan known as Primary Care Network or PCN.  The plan is designed to provide low income people and families with preventative care options, but there are many services it does not cover.

PCN has been closed to enrollment since March 2012, but enough funding currently exists to allow for open enrollment over the next three to four weeks.  Kolbi Young is a spokesperson for the Utah Department of Health.

Wednesday night, the Utah Senate guaranteed that Governor Gary Herbert will play a key role in deciding if the state will expand its Medicaid program. Lawmakers in both chambers approved  a substitute bill that now sets guidelines for how the Governor will make his decision.

The Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act permits states to opt out of the law's Medicaid expansion, and that’s what Utah House lawmakers aim to do with House Bill 391. The bill would ban Utah’s governor and the Department of Health from expanding the Medicaid program. It passed the Utah House of Representatives this morning and now heads to the Senate where it faces opposition from leadership. 

Medicaid Battle Looming

Mar 8, 2013
Dan Bammes

  A battle could be shaping up in the Utah House of Representatives over a bill that would stop the state from expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. 

A bill that would stop the state of Utah from expanding its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act passed a committee vote Wednesday evening.

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