Southern Utah senator among committee members to approve Medicaid expansion changes despite protest

Stock image | Photo by 3283197d_273/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY — A plan to scale back the number of people covered by Utah’s voter-approved Medicaid expansion has moved one step closer to passage, despite protest from supporters.

On Tuesday, the Senate Health and Human Services committee, which includes Southern Utah Sen. Evan Vickers, voted 6-2 to advance Medicaid Expansion Adjustments, designated as SB 96 and sponsored by North Ogden Republican Sen. Allen Christensen.

The bill would cap enrollment at people who make up to 100 percent of the poverty line to control how much the state has to pay. Proposition 3, the plan approved by voters in the 2018 election, capped enrollment at 138 percent.

Advocates rallied on Monday urging lawmakers to leave alone a plan that would provide health care to 150,000 low-income people.

They say a voter-approved sales tax increase will cover the program for at least two years, and any needed changes can come after that.

Read more: Supporters of Medicaid expansion to rally at capitol as Utah Legislature opens

On Wednesday, Voices for Utah Children sent a letter signed by 40 different organizations “in support of Utah voters’ historic decision” to Gov. Gary Herbert and the Utah Legislature. The letter starts as follows:

On November 6, 2018, Utah voters took an historic step, voting to expand Medicaid to adults and families across Utah through Proposition 3. We call upon our Legislature and Governor Herbert to ensure that full Medicaid expansion is implemented by the April 1st deadline, without any delays or restrictions to care. Proposition 3 will help thousands of Utahns access affordable health insurance and was carefully crafted by healthcare and policy experts to ensure it would deliver on its promises. As Utah voters, healthcare consumers, providers and stakeholders, we stand by the following principles as full Medicaid expansion moves forward in our state.

The letter goes on to state that full Medicaid expansion is fiscally responsible, promotes work, drives health care innovation and supports strong families.

The full letter, including the list of supporting organizations who have signed the letter, can be read by clicking here.

According to a previous report from St. George News, Utah is one of three Republican-leaning states where full Medicaid expansion won the vote in November after years of resistance from state lawmakers. However, the margin of victory for Proposition 3 was still relatively slim, with 54 percent of eligible voters casting a ballot in favor of the proposition and 46 percent opposed. Those results were almost exactly swapped in the southern part of the state, where voters in both Washington and Iron counties voted to reject the proposition.

St. George News attempted to reach Vickers for comment Wednesday on his committee vote, but as of publication of this story, there has been no response. SB 96 now goes on to the full Senate.

Full audio of Senate Health and Human Services committee hearing on the bill can be heard here, starting at approximately 28:30.

Read more: See all St. George News reports and opinions on Utah Legislature 2019 issues

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The Associated Press contributed to this report

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