Medicaid public hearings coming to St. George, discussion on new law

ST. GEORGE — The Utah Department of Health will hold a public forum in St. George Thursday to hear and discuss concerns about the 1115 heath care waiver that must be submitted to the federal government by July 1 Utah’s new law. The forum will run from 4:30-5:30 p.m. at the Select Health Auditorium, 1424 E. Foremaster Drive.

This forum in St. George is one of six public hearings the Health Department will hold in communities throughout the state, four of them informal and two formal. Other informal hearings will be held in Salt Lake City and Richfield. Two formal public hearings will follow in Salt Lake City.

Thursday’s forum is open to the public for comment and feedback on how the Health Department is designing the 1115 waiver.

The Health Care Revisions bill, H.B. 437, passed the Utah Legislature during its 2016 general session, was signed by the governor March 25 and becomes effective May 10. The new law serves in place of full Medicaid expansion otherwise considered.

Full Medicaid expansion would have granted medical coverage in 2018 for over 131,000 Utah residents at a cost of $35.9 million. Approximately half of those who would have been provided health care — 64,500 people — live below 100 percent federal poverty level guidelines and do not have access to Medicaid or subsidies through the government’s health care plan,

The revisions bill will provide 16,300 Utah residents access to medical coverage in 2018 at a cost of $31.2 million to Utah taxpayers, according to the Utah Health Policy Project, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that aims to advance sustainable health care for underserved Utahns in a variety of ways including education and advocacy for public policy. The full medicaid expansion would have cost Utah taxpayers $35.9 million in 2018.

The new program prioritizes four groups for coverage:

  • An estimated 3,800 parents with children will gain Medicaid coverage, as the Department of Health is authorized to raise the federal poverty level criteria from about 40 percent to 60 percent of the poverty level. This means a family of three can earn up to $11,088 per year and qualify for Medicaid, where previously they couldn’t earn more than $8,064 a year. Premium subsidies on the Utah insurance marketplace start at 100 percent of the federal poverty level ($20,160 for a family of three).
  • Another 12,500 adults without children will gain 12-month continuous Medicaid coverage if they meet a series of eligibility requirements:
    • At the time of enrollment the individual’s annual income is 5 percent of the federal poverty level or less than $594;
    • The individual meets the prioritized eligibility criteria established by the Health Care Revisions law and defined by the Department of Health:
      • chronically homeless individual;
      • if funding is available, an individual involved in the justice system through probation, parole, or court ordered treatment; and
      • if funding is available, an individual in need of substance abuse treatment or mental health treatment.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau 2014 American Community Survey, an estimated 25,294 people or 17.6 percent of Washington County’s population are living without access to affordable health coverage.

“After four years of debating whether to expand Medicaid to low-income Utahns, we are excited about the prospect of 16,300 Utahns gaining coverage,” said RyLee Curtis, senior health policy analyst for the Utah Health Policy Project. “However, this bill creates a number of fiscal cliffs for Utahns to consider as they work their way out of poverty. They could lose their coverage if their income goes above $600 a year for single adults, or goes above $11,100 for a family of three.”

The new Utah law targets what lawmakers called ‘the neediest among us,’ Curtis said, but this group is also the most costly to cover medically, often with multiple chronic illnesses and health needs that have not been taken care of. Had Medicaid been expanded fully, the costs would have been spread across a more diverse health risk pool and the per-person costs would have been significantly lower, she said.

Event Details

  • What: Forum in St. George – informal public discussion on new Health Care Revisions law
  • When: Thursday, from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m.
  • Where: Dixie Regional Medical Center’s Select Health Auditorium, 1424 E. Foremaster Drive, St. George
  • Cost: free
  • Web page listing the five other hearings the Health Department is holding on the Health Care Revisions law


Ed. note on legislation

HB 437 passed the House of Representatives 55-17 with 3 absent or not voting. From Southern Utah, Reps. Brad Last, John Westwood, Michael Noel, V. Lowry Snow, Don Ipson and Merrill Nelson voted in favor of the legislation while Rep. Jon Stanard voted against it. 

The bill passed the Senate 19-8 with 2 absent or not voting. From Southern Utah, Sens. Ralph Okerlund and Evan Vickers voted for the bill, Sens. David Hinkins and Steve Urquhart voted against it.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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  • munchie April 20, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    If I read that correctly, $31 million to cover 16,000 people vs. $36 million to cover 130,000 people? And the 16,000 have to try to remain very poor to continue receiving coverage? Morons. We’ve got morons on our team. Again, I can’t believe we pay these guys.

    • ladybugavenger April 21, 2016 at 9:04 am

      Or just be in the country illegally and you can get a drivers license, food stamps, medical, social security, and a good paying job…we take care of illegals but we don’t care of our own citizens…citizens stay poor, if you make $9 an hour with 2 kids you’re disqualified for Medicaid….moral of the story: it pays to be illegal

      • .... April 21, 2016 at 4:00 pm

        Hey you forgot to mention all the freebies the Native Americans get at the expense of the American Tax payers

  • RealMcCoy April 23, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    “over 131,000 Utah residents at a cost of $35.9 million; … the revisions bill will provide 16,300 Utah residents access to medical coverage in 2018 at a cost of $31.2 million to Utah taxpayers”

    This has to be a typo. PLEASE tell me this is a typo, or just a poorly worded news report (maybe 16,300 MORE residents?)
    The only way they could have passed that revision (as it is reported) would be if the lot of them were graduates of the Common Core math program.

    Please update this report with the real math.
    Thank you.

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