In November, Utahns will vote on an initiative to expand Medicaid. A recent town hall in Logan featured lawmakers who tried to explain the difference between Proposition 3 and a Medicaid expansion bill signed by Governor Gary Herbert.
Health advocacy groups in Utah have spent multiple years trying to expand Medicaid. Medicaid expansion was a contentious part of passing the Affordable Care Act under President Obama. States were left with the choice to expand Medicaid or not, but residents in states that did not expand are stuck in a health insurance coverage gap—they don’t earn enough money to use the health care exchanges through the ACA, but aren’t eligible for Medicaid without updated laws in their states.
Proposition 3 covers almost everyone in the coverage gap—excluding undocumented residents. It is paid for by a 0.15 percent state sales tax increase that excludes any tax on food. The house bill, signed by the governor, includes work requirements to be eligible and is paid for by existing funds through Medicaid.
Republican Representative Robert Spendlove of Sandy is the sponsor of the House bill that is waiting for federal approval and says both Proposition 3 and his bill attempt to improve the lives of Utahns, but he isn’t sure Proposition 3 is financially sustainable.
"The underlying feeling that I’ve gotten from members of the legislature is that they want to help people—that they want to try to provide a safety net to help those people in need," Spendlove said. "But we’ve got to design it in a way that is sustainable in the long-term."
Rylee Curtis is the campaign manager for Proposition 3. She disagrees and says the initiative allows for changes as needed and believes the tax will be enough to sustain expansion.
"We worked with the Department of Health here, locally," Curtis said. "We made sure that they had seen what we’re proposing and making sure that it’s feasible, that it’s implementable. We did all that groundwork before we asked citizens to sign on to it."
Both Curtis and Representative Spendlove were in Logan last week during a town hall to answer questions about Medicaid expansion options.