Medicaid

Dan Bammes

  Supporters of expanding Utah’s Medicaid program under the President’s health care plan don’t expect to see a decision during the legislative session.   But they came to Utah's state capitol Friday to make their point anyway.  

There were about a hundred people on the capitol steps for a rally in support of Medicaid expansion, but many more links in the paper chains they brought along.  Each of the 150-thousand links represents a Medicaid client in Utah – somebody like Stacey Stanford, who’s been in a wheelchair since a car accident in 2010.

Terry Gildea

Utah Democrats in the state legislature called on Governor Gary Herbert today to move forward with increasing Medicaid coverage. States have the option to expand their programs under the Affordable Care Act.  

Utah Governor Gary Herbert addresses Medicaid expansion, guns, and the sequester at his monthly news conference, the Legislature debates a suicide prevention bill, and former Governor Jon Huntsman says he supports gay marriage.

pool photo

  Utah Governor Gary Herbert says a decision on expanding Utah's Medicaid program may have to wait until this summer.  Herbert told his monthly news conference on KUED Thursday morning that Utah won't follow the lead of any other state on the issue.

The Utah Department of Health says that the privately contracted cost/benefit analysis of the optional Medicaid expansion is still not complete. The Social Services joint appropriations committee had planned to hear the report Tuesday morning.

A new report says that Utah would benefit from Medicaid expansion, protests continue over Utah’s poor air quality, and Dixie State College is on it’s way to becoming a University.

A new report shows that Utah’s economy would benefit from an expansion of Medicaid, creating thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in economic activity. 

The report comes from the national nonprofit organization Families USA and Utah Health Policy Project.  UHPP Director Judi Hilman told KUER an expansion of Medicaid will allow millions of federal dollars to flow into Utah, stimulating the economy.

Andrea Smardon

Healthcare advocates converged on the Capitol Friday to encourage lawmakers to expand Medicaid to more low income residents, but state lawmakers held off on debate for now, and said the Governor will have to make the decision. 

Family physician Ray Ward kicked off the meeting of the Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee with an impassioned plea for the expansion of Medicaid to cover an estimated 145,000 more low-income Utahns.

Brian Grimmett

Newly elected Utah Senate President Wayne Neiderhauser opened the 2013 Legislative session by urging senators to be fiscally responsible.

In his opening remarks Senate President Wayne Neiderhauser warned his fellow senators to be careful not to believe they can create money out of thin air as they go about tackling some of Utah’s tough budget issues. He says he hopes to see legislators pass laws that work in the long term, especially when it comes to education funding.

Controversy stirs around the Dixie State College name change, the Utah Department of Health once again loses Medicaid patient data, and a 92-year-old World War II veteran finally receives his war medals after waiting more than 60 years.

Andrea Smardon

The Utah Department of Health says human error caused the most recent data breach, where the personal information of 6000 Medicaid clients was lost on a thumb drive. 

The mistake was made by an employee of a third-party contractor, Goold Health Systems, which processes pharmacy claims for Utah’s Medicaid program. State Health Department spokesman Tom Hudachko said the employee should never have downloaded data onto an unencrypted thumb drive. 

Governor Gary Herbert is sworn into his first full term, newly elected State Auditor John Dougall sits down and talks with KUER’s Dan Bammes, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services gives conditional approval to Utah’s health exchange.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services gives Utah conditional approval for their state run health exchange, a University of Utah program tries to give children with Autism a better quality of life, and the Holly Oil Refinery in Woods Cross gets approval to expand.

An Ogden family mourns the loss of their child in the aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting, the Utah Department of Health looks into the costs of expanding Medicaid, and Salt Lake County approves a 16% tax increase.

The Utah Department of Health has hired an outside firm to study the costs and benefits of expanding Medicaid in the state.  The department has been gathering feedback from the public on what should be considered in the study. 

Christina Osburn has a brain tumor and epilepsy.  She’s been on Medicaid for more than 10 years, but she expects to lose that coverage because her income will soon exceed the threshold to qualify.   

Andrea Smardon

Some healthcare advocates were disappointed Wednesday to find out that Governor Gary Herbert did not include funding for the expansion of Medicaid in his proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Governor Herbert spoke very little about healthcare in his budget presentation except to say that he is proceeding with caution. 

Low-income advocates are asking Governor Gary Herbert to remember Utahns who can’t afford basic healthcare this holiday season.  On Friday, staff from Crossroads Urban Center and some uninsured Utahns presented results from a survey showing the connection between hunger and high healthcare costs. 

Crossroads Urban Center surveyed more than 300 of the people they helped with food this year. Marjorie Hurder is a Social Justice Advocate at the Center, and she conducted many of the interviews.

Governor Gary Herbert plans to send a letter to the US Department of Health and Human Services Friday declaring the state’s intentions on its health insurance exchange. Up until now, the Governor’s Office has not said whether the state will update its existing exchange, Avenue H, to meet requirements of the Affordable Care Act - or let the feds create their own exchange in the state. But Utah’s Health Reform Implementation Coordinator Norman Thurston says the letter doesn’t commit the state to anything.

KUER News Pod: Thursday November 15, 2012

Nov 15, 2012

The state Legislature discusses a proposal to fix the state’s data security issues, the governor’s public lands policy coordinator says a lot more study needs to be done before taking over federal lands, and Salt Lake City conducts a community food assessment.

The state Health and Human Services interim committee unanimously supported draft legislation Wednesday aimed at fixing problems related to the state’s Medicaid data breach that left more than 800 thousand Utahn’s personal information vulnerable.

The Affordable Care Act promises to extend the reach of health care coverage to many people who don’t have it now.  Critics say it will do that at a huge cost in both money and individual liberty.  But the mandate in the law for nearly everyone to buy health insurance has been upheld by the U-S Supreme Court and that requirement will take effect in 2014.  The question facing Utah and the rest of country is how to implement the provisions that are maintained by the states.

The State Department of Health is moving forward on an overhaul of the Medicaid system despite opposition.  Utah’s new managed care contracts are designed to save the state money and are slated to go into effect in January, but some health advocates say the proposed contracts do not ensure quality care for patients.  And the state’s Inspector General says the contracts do not ensure proper oversight of Medicaid funds.  KUER’s Andrea Smardon reports.   

An independent analysis finds Utah’s Medicaid program is using state resources efficiently.  The findings were released this week by Voices for Utah Children, a nonpartisan, advocacy organization. 

The report’s author Allison Rowland thinks the data on Medicaid tells a different story than the rhetoric often heard from politicians. 

Brian Grimmett

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act put the decision of whether or not to expand Medicaid coverage up to each individual state. Medicaid eligibility can be a very complex issue but at its most basic level is based upon household income as a percentage of the Federal Poverty Level. For a family of four the federal poverty level is set at $23,050. You can see the current income limits based on the FPL in the graph below.

Andrea Smardon

After the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act, states are faced with a decision on whether to expand Medicaid eligibility.  Utah remains undecided.  In the last story in our series, The Future of Medicaid in Utah, we look at how the decision affects all of us as taxpayers and healthcare consumers. 

Bobbi Mathews with a photo of her daughter Katie
Dan Bammes

Utah lawmakers will decide in their next legislative session whether or not to expand Medicaid under the guidelines outlined in the Affordable Care Act.  Unlike Medicare, which is a federal program for the elderly, Medicaid is a partnership with states that provides a healthcare safety net for those in need.

But qualifying for Medicaid is not automatic.  The income and eligibility requirements are complex and the state employs dozens of people to help make those determinations.

Since the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, governors in four states have declared they will not expand Medicaid. Utah is currently undecided. State lawmakers met Tuesday to review the Supreme Court’s decision - and Utah’s options.

Republican Representative James Dunnigan of Taylorsville is chair of the state’s Health System Reform Task Force. He says the expansion of Medicaid is a big policy decision for Utah, and lawmakers are still gathering information. 

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