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Utah considering paths for Medicaid expansion

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 23, 2013 at 8:27 pm •  Published: April 23, 2013

The group has outlined a list of preliminary options, including a full expansion, which would cover individual adults whose income is less than $15,850, or about 1.4 times the poverty level. Others could choose to get coverage through their work, or opt to buy their own and then apply for tax credits.

The group is considering a partial expansion path that would cover Utah adults at or below the poverty line, and others in substance abuse and other treatment programs.

Under another option, Utah could vie for control over divvying up the Medicaid money or Washington could put that sum toward tax credits that Utah businesses and individuals could apply to receive. The state could also opt out altogether, leaving coverage costs up to private and charity efforts.

Other states, including Arkansas and Indiana, have sprung for a blend of those choices, and neighboring Arizona has opted for the full expansion.

Judi Hilman, the executive director of the Utah Health Policy Project, urged the group to consider ways to alleviate pressure from providers, whom she said are overloaded with patients. One of those ways is to bring more nurse practitioners and doctor's assistants to Utah, she said, because they can treat patients but are less costly than doctors. Another method, she said, is to bolster charity care.

David Patton, executive director at the Utah Department of Health, said "I think the flexibility is there" for the state to design its own plan, "and my philosophy at this point is, let's come up with a Utah solution, and we'll present that to the fed government."

The group's next meeting will be in May. The governor has until New Year's Eve to voice his decision.