Utah governor defies voters by limiting Medicaid expansion

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Defying his constituents, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has approved only a limited Medicaid expansion plan that covers far fewer people and costs taxpayers more money.

The legislation, supported by the Trump administration, will adjust the poverty level from 138 percent to 100 percent starting April 1. That means anyone earning between that portion will have to purchase coverage on the federal exchange.

“This bill provides all of this in a fiscally sustainable way, with enhancements that will improve health outcomes for recipients,” Herbert said in a statement after signing the bill Monday.

Herbert’s move goes against what Utahns voted for in November — a full expansion of Medicaid outlined in Proposition 3. That option would’ve expanded Medicaid to cover 150,000 people and been funded by sales tax. That’s about 48,000 more people and $150 million more cost than the law Herbert signed, a state analysis said.

Herbert argued his version of the expansion is more balanced than the one voters wanted.

“This bill balances Utah’s sense of compassion and frugality,” he tweeted. “It provides quality coverage to the same population covered by Proposition 3 in a meaningful, humane and sustainable way.”

Under the new law, Utah residents not eligible for Medicaid will still get benefits if they’re between the poverty level. A single 21-year-old woman in Utah would get a zero deductible, a monthly premium of $3.57 and $10 co-pay costs for generic drugs and primary doctor visits.

“These individuals already have access to quality, subsidized health care coverage on the federal exchanges at little cost to them, and at no cost to the state of Utah,” Herbert said. “Because the federal government would continue to cover the full costs for this population, Utah can protect its general fund to support other social services.”

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