UTAH: Deal reached on Medicaid expansion!!

Hat Tip To: 
Dan Diamond

A shout-out to Dan Diamond for this unexpected Friday evening heads' up:

Breakthrough — Utah GOP leaders reach a deal on Medicaid expansion

Republican leaders have agreed to a broad, conceptual framework for expanding Medicaid to insure tens of thousands of low-income Utahns with a plan that would call on medical providers to pay for the new health coverage.

The so-called Gang of Six — Gov. Gary Herbert, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, House Speaker Greg Hughes, House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan and Sen. Brian Shiozawa — huddled this week constructing the skeleton of a new Medicaid plan to replace the governor's Healthy Utah and the House's Utah Cares proposals.

On Friday, they announced their agreement, saying it was sustainable and would protect other key areas of the budget.

YUP, this comes immediately after yesterday's surprise news out of Alaska, where the former-Republican-turned-Independent Governor Bill Walker finally grew tired of the GOP state legislature jerking everyone around and announced that he's going through with it via executive order.

According to Diamond (and the article), it sounds like Utah's version of ACA Medicaid expansion would be similar to Arkansas' "private option" program:

Sources familiar with the conceptual agreement say it would require hospitals, doctors and pharmaceutical companies to help pay for the expanded coverage, possibly through a new tax. That money then would cover those Utahns living above the poverty level and unable to qualify for traditional Medicaid.

...The state then would tap the Medicaid funds to provide subsidized private health care coverage to as many as 126,500 Utahns who fall into what is known as the Medicaid gap.

But the tentative agreement is still preliminary with many moving parts. It would:

• Still require the state to get waivers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to implement the program.

• Require at last some measure of buy-in from hospitals, doctors and pharmaceutical companies.

• Need to win the approval of the Legislature, particularly the House, which last session resoundingly defeated Herbert's similar Healthy Utah plan.

What's really interesting here is that just like the news just announced in Alaska, where the Medicaid Gap estimate from the Kaiser Family Foundation was much lower than the number being thrown around by state officials (KFF: 10.5K vs. 40K claimed by the state), KFF is claiming only 30,000 in the Utah Gap vs. the 126.5K claimed in the article.

So far, that's 126,000 more people in the Medicaid Gap than KFF has estimated. I have no idea which estimates are more accurate, but either way this is great news! The Utah deal may still have some hoops to jump through, but assuming it goes through, that's 2 more states crossed off the list in as many days!