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Utah Health Department Takes Next Step Toward Full Medicaid Expansion

The Utah Department of Health will host public hearings on its next round of Medicaid waiver requests to the federal government. 

After the Trump Administration denied a request in July by Utah legislators to fund partial Medicaid expansion, the state health department is submitting a request to approve the so-called “fallback plan” outlined by Senate Bill 96, this year’s Medicaid legislation that repealed the voter-approved Proposition 3. The fallback plan would expand Medicaid to recipients making up to 138% of the federal poverty level—like what’s outlined in the Affordable Care Act and Proposition 3—but includes other provisions, such as work requirements, enrollment caps and an additional monthly premium for recipients over 100% of the federal poverty line.

Summit County Health Department Director Rich Bullough says the county is pulling for full expansion, due to the funding it provides behavioral health initiatives and programs.

“If Medicaid is expanded to 138%, that changes our ability to provide services for individuals who need those services, and that is a big deal," Bullough said. "It also changes resources that will be available for programs like drug court and other programs that are very important to our county.”

In addition to behavioral and mental health programs, Bullough says Medicaid also supports physical health services.

“All of the women’s health services and many of the vaccines are covered by Medicaid, and so as qualifications are expanded, we have the ability to provide increased access to that population," Bullough said. "It's not a secret that individuals who can benefit from Medicaid are typically at a higher risk of many of the conditions that we’re trying to prevent or treat.”

Bullough says the Summit County Council voted years ago on a resolution to fully expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

The Utah Department of Health has two public hearings on the fallback plan waiver—one on Monday, Oct. 7 at 4 p.m. at the Multi-agency State Office Building in Salt Lake City, and the other Thursday, Oct. 10 at 2 p.m. at the Cannon Health Building, also in Salt Lake. The health department is also accepting comments online through Oct. 27.

Emily Means hadn’t intended to be a journalist, but after two years of studying chemistry at the University of Utah, she found her fit in the school’s communication program. Diving headfirst into student media opportunities, Means worked as a host, producer and programming director for K-UTE Radio as well as a news writer and copy editor at The Daily Utah Chronicle.
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