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Utah house says no to Medicaid expansion

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Posted at 5:12 PM, Mar 11, 2013
and last updated 2013-03-11 19:12:15-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah House passed a bill on Monday that turns down an expansion to Medicaid, which is a key part of the Affordable Care Act.

If Utah chooses to expand Medicaid coverage they would get $450 million dollars in federal funds. The expansion would mean affordable health care coverage for 131,000 of Utah’s poorest people.

Rep. Marie Poulson, D-District 46, said health care costs can be a heavy burden on people.

“Health care costs are so high, often times they have to declare bankruptcy,” she said.

If Utah decided to opt in to the expansion then the federal government would cover 100 percent of the cost for the first three years. After that the state would pay up to 10 percent of those costs.

Rep. Jacob Anderegg, R-District 6, said the expansion would likely have large consequences.

“I believe Medicaid expansion in its purest form will merely shift costs,” he said. “We pick up 131,000 people, but we’re also going to then make health care unaffordable for how many more? I would bet it’s going to be a big chunk.”

Anderegg said there is no guarantee the federal government will make good on their promises, and he said by opting in Utah will move toward socialized health care.

His colleagues on the other side of the aisle, however, worry that other states will benefit at Utah’s expense if they don’t act.

“If we choose not to opt in then what we're doing is just having our federal tax dollars going to subsidize Medicaid expansion in other states,” she said.

Anderegg said alternatives like charitable giving can cover the health care needs of uninsured Utahns, but Poulson disagrees.

“For our representatives to assume that this burden can be carried by charitable organizations, I think, is misleading,” she said.