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Utah Medicaid expansion talk buoys Davis County advoocates
Jan 27, 2014 | 4538 views | 1 1 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Health Care Spending - File Photo
Health Care Spending - File Photo

BOUNTIFUL - The governor announcing he will work with the Legislature on possible Medicaid expansion was lauded by a couple of Davis County officials who work closely with the poor.

“We see people all the time, people who want (insurance) coverage, but can’t afford insurance,” said Lorna Koci, executive director of the Bountiful Community Food Pantry.

“They’re not people who are sitting at home. Most of them are working and unable to afford it. They’re not making a living wage,” she said.

“They fall in that gap that’s too high for a federal subsidy and too high for traditional Medicaid. This will help a significant portion of our clients,” Koci said.

In his monthly KUED press conference, Gov. Herbert said that doing nothing in terms of Medicaid expansion is not an option.

 “I have come to this decision. I have analyzed it very thoroughly, and I can tell you this, that doing nothing - which has been an option on the table - I’ve taken off the table. Doing nothing is not an option."

“We have about 60,000 people in the state of Utah that live below the poverty line,” said Herbert. “Because of flaws in the Affordable Care Act, (they) will not have the coverage that is necessary for them to access good health care. In fact, the flaw means the people making more money, above poverty will have access to better health care than this group of people that are below poverty.

“That’s not right, that’s not fair,” said Herbert. “I’m going to work with the legislature to find a solution to that problem. We have 45 days and we will have a solution by the end of this session.”

“He didn’t say we were going to expand Medicaid, but that we would do something at least with the very bottom rung, those at 100 percent of poverty or below,” said Lewis Garrett, Davis County Director of Health.

Options to be looked at could include providing a Medicaid-based subsidy, as well as determining whether Medicaid should be expanded to assist those at 100 percent or 133 percent of poverty, Garrett said.

For a family of four, the 133 percent of poverty income is $31,322 and at 100 percent it’s $23,550.

The decision ultimately lies with the governor. Application will have to be made by the Utah Department of Health to the CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services), he said.

“Anything but full Medicaid expansion will require a waiver from the federal government,” Garrett said.

The federal government will fund the full cost of whatever expansion takes place until 2017, and then will cover 90 percent.

More than 6,000 Davis County residents could fall within that 100 percent of poverty line, he estimated.

“You’d be eligible for Food Stamps, but it would be extremely difficult, plus paying for health care,” Garrett said.

“A lot of times, when people can get the right medical treatment, it will also expand jobs,” said Daneen Adams, assistant director of the Family Connection Center. She called the prospect of some movement on Medicaid expansion “wonderful.”

The FCC services as the county’s community action agency and also operates a food bank.

“I know there are a lot of pitfalls for people,” in terms of being able to afford health care, etc., Adams said.

“We see it all the time, this pool of people who don’t qualify for any services. They’re hard working. In most cases, they’re making a living wage, but they can’t afford $500 (say) for insurance or $1,000 to go to a doctor for a checkup when they have the flu,” she said.

“I think it shows the governor cares. I think it’s the right step for Utah,” she said of formally considering this issue.

“I think this expansion question will dominate much of the discussion in the legislature,” Garrett added.

Clipper Online Editor Dan Metcalf, Jr. contributed to this story. 

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January 28, 2014
My son does not make enough money to get assistance in purchasing health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. He works in retail. If my son made $2000 more a year he would qualify for a subsidy. Under the Federal Guidelines he qualifies for Medicaid. But a young man cannot get on Utah's Medicaid system unless he is disabled. My son is not alone. Currently it is estimated that 123,000 Utahns are uninsured and would be eligible for coverage under Medicaid expansion.

The Legislative Fiscal Analyst has estimated the expansion would save the state about $6 million in the first year and nearly $16 million in the second year.

According to our state’s own research, not expanding Medicaid will cause the state to lose out on over 3,000 new jobs and 2.2 billion dollars in economic impact and will send tax money already paid by Utah taxpayers to the 26 other states that have expanded Medicaid. Without the expansion too many of our fellow Utahns will remain uninsured and without access to health care. My son is one of them.

I hope that Governor Herbert will realize that expanding Medicaid is the decent and economical thing to do.
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