ST. GEORGE — On the last day of the 2018 legislative session, a Medicaid expansion bill passed the Utah Senate Thursday, opening the door for more Utahns to receive health care.
HB 472, or Medicaid expansion revisions, passed with a vote of 20-8 in the Senate. It passed the House earlier this week.
Both Republicans and Democrats voted for the bill, which would expand Medicaid coverage to thousands of Utahns below the federal poverty line. The bill would require the Utah Department of Health to submit a waiver request to the federal government by Jan. 1, 2019, to expand Medicaid in the state.
Expanding Medicaid under HB 472 would require all able-bodied individuals to be employed before receiving benefits. Though the work requirement has been somewhat controversial, President Donald Trump has indicated the government would sign off an any plan to expand Medicaid if it included work requirements.
“This bill isn’t creating this work requirement out of thin air,” said Rep. Robert Spendlove, R-Sandy, the bill sponsor. “There already is a work requirement on (Temporary Cash Assistance for Needy Families in Utah), which is welfare. So what we do, we just adopt the work requirements from TANF into this bill.”
People who are disabled or who have “severe ailments” would not be required to work to receive Medicaid benefits under this new bill, Spendlove said. Up to 60,000 Utahns could gain health care coverage through his bill, and many of them may benefit from the bill by finding work and being lifted out of poverty.
“We’re trying to help people – help them improve their lives and get out of poverty,” Spendlove told St. George News.
However, despite Spendlove heralding his bill as a savior for thousands of Utahns to gain health care, others say it’s not so simple. HB 472 would leave tens of thousands of other Utahns out of the Medicaid expansion program if it’s capped at 100 percent of the federal poverty level, said Chase Thomas, policy and advocacy counsel with Alliance for a Better Utah.
An individual making $12,140 a year or a family of four making $25,100 a year would earn as much as 100 percent of the federal poverty line. Those opposed to Spendlove’s bill have argued the line should at least be at 138 percent of the federal poverty line for people to get Medicaid coverage.
“Fully expanding Medicaid would not place the state’s financial situation into the doom-and-gloom scenario that legislative leadership would like us to believe,” Thomas said. “However, it would help many more Utahns who desperately need that help. The time to fully expand Medicaid is now.”
The bill now heads to Gov. Gary Herbert’s desk for him to sign. Paul Edwards, a spokesman for Herbert, told St. George News in February that the governor would be in favor in signing off on a bill to expand Medicaid under work requirements. The governor’s support of work requirements for Medicaid has everything to do with helping people help themselves, Edwards said, and getting them lifted out of poverty.
“If they are needing these kinds of services because they are in financial straits and if they are in a position, physically and mentally, to take on the added responsibility of work, it would really be a blessing and an opportunity for them to become self-supportive,” he said.
- Read full text of the bill: HB 472: Medicaid Expansion Revisions
- Contact legislators
- Bill sponsor: Rep. Robert Spendlove | Floor Sponsor: Sen. Brian Zehnder
- Southern Utah Senators: Evan Vickers, Don Ipson, David Hinkins and Ralph Okerlund| Listing of all senators.
- Southern Utah Representatives: Travis Seegmiller, Bradley Last, V. Lowry Snow, Walt Brooks, John Westwood, Merrill Nelson and Mike Noel | Listing of all members of the House of Representatives.
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