Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill into law Monday that will roll back the Medicaid expansion to the poor under Obamacare that voters approved in November.
Herbert, a Republican, said in a statement that the bill “balances Utah’s sense of compassion and frugality” and that it would provide coverage in a “meaningful, humane, and sustainable way.” It provides government healthcare to people making 100 percent of the federal poverty level, rather than the 138 percent level allowed under Obamacare. Sixty thousand fewer people will be enrolled in Medicaid as a result.
Because the bill doesn’t fit into Obamacare’s requirements, it must first be approved by the Trump administration. Federal officials have yet to allow such a “partial expansion” in any state, though both Arkansas and Massachusetts have asked for one and Georgia is preparing to unveil its own version.
The Medicaid legislation includes a provision allowing the full expansion to proceed if federal officials reject the partial expansion.
The expansion was supposed to be paid for with a payroll tax on nonfood items, but Republicans said the amount netted by the tax wouldn’t cover costs. They therefore sought to limit the expansion, which means that people making above 100 percent of the federal poverty level will not be covered by Medicaid and will only have the option of going onto the Obamacare exchange for coverage. Exchange customers will pay little to nothing in premiums, but will still face small out-of-pocket costs. The arrangement pushes the federal government to spend more and allows for the state to spend less.
The legislation drew protests and nationwide coverage. It isn’t the first time that a ballot initiative on Medicaid has faced pushback. When former GOP Gov. Paul LePage delayed implementation in Maine, the case went to the courts and was litigated for a year. It is now open for enrollment under the new Democratic Gov. Janet Mills.
Herbert encouraged the legislature to move past the disagreement on expansion.
“It is now time to set aside differences and move forward to get those in greatest need enrolled on Medicaid and on the federal health care exchanges,” he said.