AARP Utah: governor’s medicaid expansion plan is encouraging

A new poll shows strong support for Gov. Gary Herbert's "Healthy Utah" plan to help thousands of people gain access to affordable health insurance. Photo credit: Utah Governor's Office.

SALT LAKE CITY – Gov. Gary Herbert’s plan to expand Medicaid coverage in Utah could move the state closer to helping thousands of people who are not eligible for the program. Danny Harris, AARP Utah director of advocacy, said Herbert’s “Healthy Utah Plan” would likely do more than other plans under consideration to help about 60,000 Utahns who do not now qualify for Medicaid.

Harris explained that the plan relies on federal funding and would help those who earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to get coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

“We believe that there are still some wrinkles in the plan that need to be ironed out. And we look forward to working with the governor and his staff, in terms of evaluating those issues and making this plan work in the best way possible for Utahns,” Harris said.

Medicaid expansion initiatives being considered in the Utah Senate and House would not provide the same level of coverage as the governor’s proposal, Harris noted. He said the Senate proposal would not be likely to get approval for funding from the federal government.

Herbert said Healthy Utah would be a three-year pilot program and help those earning less than $15,500 per year.

Harris said he hopes that the governor and legislature will pass the plan soon, so that Utahns can start getting coverage on Jan. 1, 2015.

“The longer we delay, if we have to move into a special session it’s likely that that would be delayed until July 1 of next year,” he warned, “which is a major concern to us and to those people who want to get covered for health care as soon as possible.”

Harris said AARP Utah has been working with the state legislature and the governor on Medicaid expansion for several months.

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