Senate Committee Advances Medicaid Expansion Replacement Plan

(KCPW News) Utah lawmakers have advanced a proposal to replace the full Medicaid expansion approved by voters in November.

Ogden Republican Sen. Allen Christensen’s SB96 received a favorable recommendation from the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday.

Christensen’s bill would retain the 0.15 percent sales tax increase from the voter-approved Proposition 3. But his proposal would cover fewer people. Just those earning 100% of the federal poverty level or below would qualify. For an individual that translates to earnings of roughly $12,000 or less, per year. For context, full Medicaid expansion would cover people earning up to 138% of the poverty level (or roughly $17,000 or less in yearly earnings for an individual).

Advocates for full Medicaid expansion who helped pass Proposition 3 were vexed by Christensen’s proposal. Stacy Stanford with the Utah Health Policy Project told committee members that the will of voters should be preserved.

“We didn’t vote for caps or delays or red tape, we voted for full expansion April 1st, no strings attached, no waivers,” Stanford said. “The voters got it right, and Proposition 3 is a superior law.”

Sen. Christensen said his bill would preserve the intent of Proposition 3 in a more fiscally responsible manner. He said that while he was philosophically opposed to expanding Medicaid, his bill was a response to the will of voters in his district.

“If we had not passed Proposition 3, I would be still be standing as an advocate to not [expand Medicaid],” he said.  “I’m listening to the public.”

SB96 passed out of the committee on a 6-2 vote.  It will next be heard on the floor of the state Senate.