Utah’s Medicaid expansion debate isn’t over, as The Project for Deeper Understanding rounds up advocates | ParkRecord.com

Utah’s Medicaid expansion debate isn’t over, as The Project for Deeper Understanding rounds up advocates

While the Utah State Legislature passed a proposal to expand federal Medicaid funding in Utah on the final day of its session last week, the conversation is far from over. As the state awaits the Trump administration's approval of the lawmakers' bill, a ballot initiative pushing an alternative solution is picking up steam.

The Project for Deeper Understanding, a local initiative that hosts discussions centered on hot-button issues, is set to hold a panel on Thursday, March 15, featuring a number of different voices on the contentious issue, as well as a question-and-answer session for attendees.

The Rev. Charles Robinson, a leader of the Project, said he hopes for a high turnout.

RyLee Curtis, one of the panelists, is spearheading the Medicaid expansion ballot initiative called Utah Decides. The ballot initiative differs from the Legislature's solution by including people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, as well as omitting work requirements and other qualifications. It also wouldn't need Trump's stamp of approval.

A poll taken by the Hinckley Institute of Politics and the Salt Lake Tribune last year reported that more than two-thirds of Utahns supported putting the initiative on the ballot. And Curtis says that, while not all the requisite signatures have been collected yet, it's well on its way to the ballot box.

Rep. Brian S. King, D-Salt Lake, will also sit on the panel. King was a "no" vote on the Legislature's Medicaid expansion solution. While Medicaid expansion is an idea he endorses, he disagreed with the poverty line criteria and the work requirement. He said he thinks the forum will be a good venue for reasoned public input on the issue that lawmakers can take into account in the future. He'll also share the table with Rep. Logan Wilde, R-Croydon, a conservative who voted "yes" on the bill.

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Wilde said that, in the midst of negotiations with the Trump administration on acceptable terms, the window the Legislature found was too good of an opportunity to pass up. He said he's interested in debating the merits of his vote with the panelists who would have liked to see the bill go further.

The discussion's moderator is set to be someone with a unique stake in the debate. Beth Armstrong, executive director of the People's Health Clinic, a non-emergency clinic in Park City serving the uninsured, will oversee the dialogue and direct attendees to the Utah Decides petition. She said addressing the "gap" of people left without Medicaid and getting Utah Decides on the ballot are two issues of particular concern.

"I'd love to get as many people possible in the room," Armstrong said.

According to the Project, topics of discussion will include the number of people between 95 and 138 percent of the poverty line left out of Medicaid, the arguments against expansion and how expansion will be funded.

"Is Medicaid Expansion Right For Utah?" A forum hosted by The Project For Deeper Understanding, is scheduled to be held at St. Luke's Episcopal Church at 4595 N. Silver Springs Drive in Snyderville at 7:00 p.m. Thursday.

Panelists

Beth Armstrong – Moderator – Executive director, People’s Health Clinic

RyLee Curtis – Executive director, Utah Decides

Bishop Scott Hayashi – Episcopal Diocese of Utah

Rep. Brian S. King (D) – Utah Legislature

Derek Monson – Executive director, Sutherland Institute

Rep. Logan Wilde (R) – Utah Legislature

Source: The Project for Deeper Understanding