An expert analysis of the pros and cons of Utah expanding its Medicaid program under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act shows that there is no mathematical reason not to do so.
So the only reason Gov. Gary Herbert and the members of the Utah Legislature would have to reject this opportunity which would expand healthcare coverage to 123,000 Utahns even as it saved the state $131 million over 10 years would be ideological. It would be a dogmatic rejection of the demonstrated fact that the ACA, also known as Obamacare, actually can expand health insurance to large numbers of people who now lack it in a way that not only doesn't cost the state money, but saves it millions.
This truth has been accepted by, among others, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. Brewer, who takes a back seat to no one in her tea party credentials on such issues as guns and immigration, is so determined to include her state in the ranks of fully expanded Medicaid that she has started vetoing every bill that comes to her desk, and says she will continue to wield the veto stamp until her Legislature ratifies her choice.
Herbert, not unreasonably, has pondered this question for a long time. He's been holding out for concessions, since granted, from the Obama administration on such things as being allowed to run a fake health insurance exchange along side the federal government's genuine one. But, more understandably, he has also been waiting for the results of a nonpartisan study of the question he ordered from the experts at the Boston-based Public Consulting Group.
That report was finally released last week, and its findings were stark and clear: Expanding Medicaid eligibility to all Utahns with incomes no more than 138 percent of the poverty level will cover so many more people and actually save state taxpayers many millions in the process.
It works that way, not only because the federal government pays for all of the additional eligibility for three years, and 90 percent of those costs thereafter. Not only does the state get more coverage for less money, it and its local governments will save millions in expenses such as mental health care for the poor and make millions in new tax revenues generated by more medical bills actually being paid instead of written off as uncollectible.
Utah should take full advantage of this offer and expand Medicaid to cover the thousands of our friends, neighbors and relatives who deserve this basic human decency. With these numbers in front of us, it is clear that the only reason to choose otherwise would be a political statement that would literally cost some Utah residents their lives.