The governor of Utah defied voters on Monday by signing only a limited Medicaid expansion plan, despite their having approved a full expansion several months ago.
Republican Governor Gary Herbert’s move immediately provoked protests by those advocating for the poor, 48,000 of which are expected to be denied access to Medicaid. State legislative analysis also shows that the move will cost Utah almost $50 million over the next two years, CNN reports.
In November, taxpayers approved a plan which would have cost less and covered 150,000 people, but Herbert and Republican lawmakers maintain the change was necessary as the voter-approved 0.15 percentage point increase in the state sales tax won’t cover the costs of expansion by the third year.
“I do not accept the characterization that SB 96 ignores the will of the people,” Herbert wrote on Friday. “I see this as a thoughtful effort to implement the will of the people to care for the poor with quality health care with the added benefit that it can be sustained over the long term with no reduction in other important social services.”
The law signed by Herbert denies coverage to those at or below the poverty line, instead of up to 138% of that threshold, as is standard under the Obamacare provision to expand Medicaid. State officials say that those earning more than the poverty line can get subsidized policies on the Obamacare exchanges, a claim advocates disagree with.
They argue that for those people coverage is too expensive and they remain uninsured.
However, the Utah governor maintained that the measure “balances Utah’s sense of compassion and frugality” and said it was “time to set aside differences and move forward to get those in greatest need enrolled on Medicaid and on the federal health care exchanges.”
The new plan is set to be implemented beginning April 1, The Hill informs.