Utah voted Tuesday to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act via ballot initiative, overcoming years of Republican opposition by GOP state legislators who refused to pass additional coverage in the statehouse.
With more than 54% support and 80% of the vote counted, voters in Utah were poised to follow the lead of voters in Maine who last November voted to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act via ballot initiative. Supporters of Utah’s Medicaid expansion put it on Tuesday’s ballot after their Republican-leaning legislature and governor have been roadblocks to the idea.
But Tuesday’s support of Medicaid expansion means Utah legislators were ignoring the desires of their residents. “Knowing my family will be able to afford medical care when we need it is an enormous relief, “Alecia Bales, 40, of Pleasant Grove, Utah, said in a statement released Wednesday morning by The Fairness Project, a key financial supporter of the Medicaid expansion campaign. “Here in Utah, we care about our neighbors, and we proved that again tonight.”
And it’s not like Utah legislators couldn’t see it coming. A recent poll in Utah, for example showed 59% support, which was an improvement from 54% in June, supporters said.
“Healthcare truly doesn’t have to be a partisan issue,” Utah Decides Campaign Manager RyLee Curtis said last week. “That rings true in Utah.”
The expansion of Medicaid benefits under the ACA has come a long way since the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 gave states a choice in the matter. There were initially only about 20 states that sided with then President Barack Obama’s effort to expand the health insurance program for poor Americans.
Utah and 16 holdout states prior to Tuesday’s elections have already missed out on generous federal funding of the Medicaid expansion. From 2014 through 2016, the ACA’s Medicaid expansion population was funded 100% with federal dollars. Since last year, the federal government still picks up 90% or more of Medicaid expansion through 2020. It’s a better deal than before the ACA, when Medicaid programs were funded via a much less generous split between state and federal tax dollars.