Plan to scale back Utah Medicaid expansion passes final vote, heads to Gov. Herbert

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah lawmakers’ contentious plan to scale back a voter-approved Medicaid expansion is headed to Gov. Gary Herbert’s desk.

The Utah Senate voted 22-7 on Monday to approve Medicaid Expansion Adjustments, designated as SB 96 and sponsored by North Ogden Republican Sen. Allen Christensen. The bill would extend Medicaid to about 50,000 fewer people than Proposition 3, the ballot measure approved by voters last November.

GOP lawmakers say their plan will cover the state’s neediest while preventing costs from spiraling out of control. Health-care advocates, though, say it reduces access to needed health care and undermines the vote.

SB96 expands Medicaid to cover people making up to 100 percent of the poverty line, as opposed to 138 percent, as specified by Proposition 3. Those who make above the 100 percent poverty line can buy subsidized insurance on the federal health care exchanges.

As previously reported, if SB 96 is signed by Herbert, the state would initially pay more money to cover fewer people because lawmakers’ scaled-back version doesn’t qualify for increased federal money under the Affordable Care Act.

Currently, Utah covers 30 percent of the cost of Medicaid, with the federal government covering the other 70 percent. Full Medicaid expansion, as specified by Proposition 3, would increase the federal portion to 90 percent as part of former President Barack Obama’s signature health-care care law.

Lawmakers have said they are confident in getting what will be a first-of-its-kind waiver from the Trump administration; however, before approving SB 96, the House added language that specified that if the waivers don’t come through, the measure would revert back to much of the voter-approved proposal for full expansion.

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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