Blog Post

Most states now expanding coverage under Obamacare

January 24, 2014

    Dan Diamond, Managing Editor

    At the end of the day, Gary Herbert still didn't like the Affordable Care Act.

    But Herbert also felt that he didn't have a choice—and that's why Utah is the 26th state to commit to expanding Medicaid under the ACA, in some form.

    "Doing nothing is not an option," said Herbert, Utah's governor (who had waited longer than any other governor to signal whether he would accept the ACA's Medicaid expansion). The comments came during Herbert's monthly news conference on Thursday, and the governor said he would make a decision on how Utah would actually expand during the legislative session that begins next week.

    Utah's legislature has endorsed two different plans to expand Medicaid using private coverage, similar to the Arkansas model, Dylan Scott reports for Talking Points Memo.

    Herbert's decision means that—nearly 19 months after the Supreme Court ruled the Medicaid expansion was constitutional, and almost four years since President Obama signed the ACA into law—a majority of states have now agreed to the expansion.

    There's also a chance that more states could soon opt into the ACA's expansion, too. Writing on the Daily Briefing''s blog, Juliette Mullin recently examined the case of several governors who have supported expanding their programs, but been stymied by their statehouses. And CMS continues to tout data suggesting that the Medicaid expansion is proving popular in states that have agreed to the expansion—with millions of uninsured signing up—and the funding is too tempting to pass up.

    "It's a good deal for states," the agency wrote in a blog post on Thursday, reiterating that the federal government will shoulder 100% of the cost of coverage for newly eligible beneficiaries across the next three years.

    That argument hasn't always resonated with wary Republicans. (Or even providers; Utah's hospital association originally urged the state not to accept the Medicaid expansion, before reversing course.) And Herbert stresses that he's still no fan of the ACA.

    What are the ramifications of Medicaid expansion? Join us for a conversation on March 19 as our experts perform a pulse check on Obamacare.

    "We have about 60,000 people in the state of Utah that live below the poverty line," Herbert added at his news conference. And "because of, just, flaws in the Affordable Care Act, will not have the coverage that is necessary for them to access good healthcare."

    But however Herbert arrived at the decision, Utah's Democrats and advocacy groups are pleased by the implications, Kirsten Stewart and Robert Gehrke report for The Salt Lake Tribune.

    "Every month that Utah waits to start a program, we lose over four million dollars in federal funding, thousands of families struggle accessing and paying for care, and continue to face the physical, mental and financial harm that occurs when families are uninsured," said Lincoln Nehring, a health policy analyst at Voices for Utah Children.

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