Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said yesterday that his state will expand its Medicaid program to cover more of those who don’t have health insurance.
Talking with reporters at a monthly news conference, broadcast live by KUED Channel 7, the Republican governor said: “Doing nothing…I’ve taken off the table. Doing nothing is not an option.”
Expanding Medicaid under the nation’s health care law would increase eligibility to 111,000 Utah adults who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or $32,000 for a family of four, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
So far, 25 states and the District of Columbia have implemented the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare and 23 states have rejected any expansion, according to the latest analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who took office earlier this month, said this week that he would find a way around the state’s decision not to expand its Medicaid program, according to USA Today.
Although Herbert did not say how Utah would go about expanding Medicaid, a legislative Health Reform Task Force recommended a “private option” alternative, similar to ventures in Arkansas and other states.
Several Democrats and advocacy groups for the poor praised the development in Utah, which comes after the federal Department of Health and Human Services announced this week that 6.3 million Americans were determined eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program under Obamacare.
But critics of the Medicaid expansion said governors should think twice about growing their programs.
“Just because a year has passed and the funding is there now, state leaders shouldn’t be pulled back into expanding a broken program that will bring higher costs in the future,” said Nina Owcharenko, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Health Policy Studies and the think tank’s Preston A. Wells Jr. Fellow.
“Taking on more problems, more obligations, and more spending for a program that is spreading thin distracts lawmakers from facing the real problems in Medicaid,” Owcharenko said.
Instead, she said, states should focus on Medicaid’s deficiencies and challenges for current beneficiaries.