Our View: Healthy Utah plan must survive

Monday , December 22, 2014 - 10:26 PM

Standard-Examiner Editorial Board

A GOP-controlled Utah health panel did a disservice to Utahns by rejecting Gov. Gary Herbert’s Healthy Utah Medicaid expansion plan last week. Hopefully, enough legislators in the Republican-majority Utah Legislature will be wise enough to make sure the governor’s plan, which has survived negotiations with the feds, is passed into law. Scores of thousands of middle-class and poor Utahns need the access to private health care insurance it will provide.

The Healthy Utah plan would cover about 146,000 persons. It takes the Medicaid funds available to Utah via the Affordable Care Act and allows health care insurance access via private plans, rather than Medicaid. The feds offer the assistance if states expand Medicaid to persons earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. It is estimated to cost about $78 million by 2021.

In contrast to Healthy Utah, the two plans approved by the health panel are an embarrassment, and indeed disrespectful to the needs of many Utahns. One plan covers about 10,000 persons; the other plan covers 16,000 persons. They cover low-income Utahns with only very severe health problems. There is no federal assistance and the 16,000 plan is estimated to cost $40 million by 2021.

That’s just not going to cut it, and our legislators know that. The refusal of the panel to embrace the more comprehensive plan is either fueled by a wish that the Affordable Care Act is eventually repealed or a callous detachment from the problems too many of us have getting affordable, quality health care. 

Our state’s budget is doing pretty well right now; there is easily enough money to do Healthy Utah now and in the future. Getting more Utahns health care coverage needs to be a high priority for the Legislature. We have the opportunity to get so many people covered and more secure with their lives. Instead, a panel last week threw Utahns a couple of bones. The entire Legislature needs to step forward and make Healthy Utah a reality.

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