Utah considering paths for Medicaid expansion

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 23, 2013 at 8:27 pm •  Published: April 23, 2013
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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The question of whether Utah will expand Medicaid to 130,000 uninsured residents is still in the air but a group of lawmakers, advocates and others are meeting to draw up a health care roadmap for the state.

Utah is among a handful of states that are deciding whether to accept the federal government's offer to expand Medicaid.

The governor has not yet decided on the issue, Lt. Gov. Greg Bell emphasized at the group's first meeting Tuesday. And Washington will likely fall short of its promises down the road, Bell warned. But he also urged that the state has a responsibility to aid its residents in crisis.

"At the end of the day, this is about mom and child— or a family— dealing with the crushing burden of debt," Bell said.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert is waiting on the group's report and another in-the-works study from an outside consulting group.

To date, this new group has identified a handful of possible routes and is assigning experts to look them over. They'll turn in a full report over to Herbert by November, they said Tuesday.

Under the health care overhaul law, the federal government has offered to pick up the tab for Medicaid expansion in the first three years and 90 percent over the long haul. By 2021, the program would cost the state an estimated $60 million, according to projections from the Utah office of the legislative fiscal analyst.

About 225,000 to 250,000 people in Utah are currently on the Medicaid program.

Republican state Rep. James Dunnigan of Taylorsville urged the group to consider expanding coverage to mental health and substance abuse treatment, saying that those cases are some of the most expensive to treat. Other members praised that idea, saying it would help secure a better life for some residents and help the state recoup high care costs.