Designed to Fail: Utah Republicans’ Backdoor Repeal of Voter-Approved Medicaid Expansion

Rewire News

By: Adam Searing

In November 2018, a majority of voters in Utah passed a Medicaid expansion ballot initiative providing Medicaid coverage to low-income people. The state’s GOP-held legislature, unhappy with the ballot results, this month overturned the robust expansion.

Voters in November also approved a minuscule (0.15 percent) sales tax to pay for this new health insurance coverage for low-income people—in total 150,000 Utah residents. Coverage was mandated to begin April 1, 2019. A family of three with an annual income of less than $29,435 would be eligible for the health-care program, for example.

The passage of the ballot initiative was a strong expression of the will of Utah voters in the face of legislative inaction. Over the years, Utah legislators and governor have battled a grassroots movement for more affordable health coverage through Medicaid expansion with a clever strategy: oversell limited legislation that only expands Medicaid to just a few of the thousands needing affordable coverage and hope that public attention moves on.

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