Photo by Taber Andrew Bain How Medicaid Expansion hurts Utah’s most vulnerable

How Medicaid Expansion hurts Utah’s most vulnerable

With a special legislative session addressing Medicaid expansion in Utah expected to take place next month, a lot has been written about the “gang of 6” plan (the gang of 6 includes Governor Herbert, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, House Speaker Greg Hughes, House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan and Sen. Brian Shiozawa).

Dan Liljenquist questions Gov. Herbert’s claim that healthcare providers are the beneficiaries of Medicaid Expansion and should foot the bill for the state’s portion of the costs. Evelyn Everton writes about how Medicaid expansion will eat up our state budget, affecting things like education, transportation, and other state services. And Connor Boyack explains how the proposed tax on healthcare providers is in effect a “sick tax” that will be passed on to Utahns.

If you want less of something, you tax it. That’s one reason Utah heavily taxes tobacco: we want less people using tobacco. So why would we want to add an additional tax on healthcare providers? If we want to expand healthcare coverage, we should be removing obstacles that doctors and other providers face, not adding more.

All of the above are good reasons not to support Herbert’s Medicaid expansion plan, but there is yet another reason Medicaid expansion is bad for Utah that isn’t getting a lot of attention. The Sutherland Institute has a great paper explaining how Medicaid Expansion will hurt Utah’s most vulnerable:

Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion would redirect limited state and federal resources away from the elderly, from children and from disabled individuals in order to fund Medicaid coverage for working-age, able-bodied childless adults. Worse yet, because the exchange’s QHPs reimburse doctors and hospitals at higher rates than Utah’s traditional Medicaid program, providers will have large financial incentives to treat the new working-age adults comprising the Medicaid expansion, rather than the most vulnerable already enrolled in Medicaid.

This will ultimately create a two-tiered system of care, where able-bodied adults are prioritized over the truly needy. This is particularly worrisome, given the fact that all but one county in Utah has a shortage of primary care providers. Simply adding 100,000-150,000 or more individuals to the Medicaid program will inevitably make access problems even worse for those on traditional Medicaid, as it greatly increases demand while doing nothing to increase the supply of providers. But Utah’s proposals go much further by creating perverse incentives for providers to push the truly needy to the end of the line.

The same paper mentions that up to 85% of those who would be covered under the expansion are able-bodied adults with no dependent children. Should we really be prioritizing these people over the disabled and truly vulnerable?

The Utah Medicaid expansion plan puts Utah taxpayers at risk, endangers education funding, harms healthcare providers, hurts the most vulnerable Utahns, and is all-around bad policy. If you want you voice heard, be sure to contact your legislator before the upcoming special session.

About author

Michael Jolley
Michael Jolley 29 posts

Michael has been active in Utah politics since 2009 and admits he still has a lot to learn. He lives in Provo with his wife Jessica and their two small children. Follow Michael on Twitter: @UTJolley

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