Record editorial: Lawmakers have another chance to get Medicaid expansion right. Let’s demand it.
If you bump into a Republican Utah lawmaker in the coming days, lend a towel. They need something to wipe the egg off their faces.
Last weekend, news broke that the Trump administration has rejected Utah’s request for increased federal funding for the state’s partial Medicaid expansion. This after lawmakers — especially Sen. Allen Christensen, whose district covers a chunk of Summit County — swore up and down as they were dismantling Proposition 3 earlier this year that the feds would approve the waiver, a crucial element of the Legislature’s alternative.
Don’t stress about the waiver, they said time and again. It was in the bag.
Until it wasn’t.
For those who’ve spent the year incensed at lawmakers gleefully disregarding voters’ mandate regarding Medicaid, the waiver denial was a satisfying bit of Schadenfreude.
More importantly, though, it puts full expansion back on the table. The Christensen-sponsored bill passed in the winter to supercede Prop 3 — S.B. 96 — included a fallback provision in case the federal waiver was rejected that calls for full expansion to be implemented with work requirements and other provisions absent in the voter-approved plan. That option also needs a sign-off from the feds, though, and if it fails, a second fallback would provide Utahns what they’ve wanted all along: full expansion without a tangle of strings attached.
Both full expansion scenarios are vastly superior to partial expansion and would allow people living on up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, or $33,948 for a family of four, to access coverage. The Legislature’s plan, on the other hand, limits coverage to those living on up to 100 percent of the poverty line, a distinction that affects tens of thousands of Utahns.
Early indications from the governor’s office indicate the state will pursue the first fallback option, which includes work requirements, enrollment caps, mandatory enrollment in employer-sponsored insurance and other restrictions. There’s a certain pragmatism to the idea that residents should take what they can get and be content with that.
But the matter is too important for Utahns to settle. Instead, we must demand lawmakers at last respect voters and implement the form of Medicaid expansion we chose at the polls.
Like anything involving the Utah Legislature, it’ll be an uphill battle. But with the health care of thousands of our friends and neighbors at stake, it’s certainly one worth waging.
Summit County’s GOP representatives can be contacted at these phone numbers: Rep. Tim Quinn, 435-709-2854; Rep. Logan Wilde, 385-290-7769; Sen. Allen Christensen, 801-782-5600; Sen. Ronald Winterton, 435-299-8531.
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