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Study: Utah Missing Out By Not Expanding Medicaid

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Next month, Utah’s latest Medicaid expansion plan will be submitted to the federal government for approval. The plan would cover between 9,000 to 11,000 people at the cost of $30 million to the state. A new report from Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute paints a concerning picture for the 19 states, including Utah, that have not expanded Medicaid.

Dr. Jack Hoadley, co-author of the report, said that expanding Medicaid has been a good move for states and that safety net healthcare facilities have seen improvements in access and delivery of care.

“These financial improvements and improvements in the number of people with insurance are really creating a broader and positive ripple effect on the healthcare system in expansion states,” Hoadley said. “The added resources create real opportunities for them to make positive changes to the delivery system.”

Paul Taylor is the CEO of Ozarks Community Hospital, which runs facilities in Missouri and Arkansas. Arkansas expanded Medicaid, Missouri has not. He said that the expansion debate in both states has affected full-time employment and the care that the hospitals offer.

“About two years ago, we decreased our FTE’s in Missouri by a hundred and at the same time increased our employment in Arkansas by about the same hundred people. We hung on, frankly, as long as we could in Missouri but we finally just simply had to give up,” Taylor said. “If we hadn’t reduced our payroll in Missouri, we were jeopardizing the entire system. So, we shrank operations. The fact remains that right now, if it weren’t for the positive operating margin we’re experiencing in Arkansas, the entire system would be out of business.”

States that have expanded Medicaid have seen their uninsured rates drop. Adam Searing, who partnered on the report, said that a gap in the quality of care is becoming more apparent between states that expand and those that do not.

“What seems to be happening is that the health system is transforming. You take a step back. To me, there seems to be two Americas forming in healthcare, driven by these state Medication expansion decisions,” Searing said. “There’s one where healthcare systems are improving, care is more integrated and easier to access, and another, in non-expansion states, where the status quo is being maintained and problems are continuing.”

Under the current plan, Utah would receive $70 million dollars in federal money.