Utah Senate OKs big expansion of Medicaid coverage for birth control

(Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo) Sen. Derek Kitchen, D-Salt Lake City, (right) chats with Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill on the Senate floor in this 2019 file photo.

The Utah Senate passed with a single dissenting vote a bill that could mean a big boost in expanding access to contraceptives and, supporters say, a big drop in unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

“This is an opportunity for the state of Utah to be proactive in health policy for average Utah families, empowering them to have control over their lives and make better, educated decisions,” sponsoring Sen. Derek Kitchen, D-Salt Lake City, said in a prepared statement.

SB74, now on its way to the House, would require the state to apply for an automatic pre-approved federal Medicaid waiver through the Division of Health Care Financing to extend family planning services to individuals making up to 250% of the federal poverty level, or $62,750 for a family of four.

If passed by the House, SB74 would provide coverage to approximately 10,000 Utahns who need family planning services, and is estimated to likely prevent about 2,100 unintended pregnancies, up to 730 abortions, and 410 miscarriages following unintended pregnancies, according to Kitchen.

This waiver that would be sought under the measure offers a 90/10 match for all reversable methods of birth control including pills, rings, injections, and intrauterine devices (IUD). It also covers implants through any Medicaid provider.

Kitchen said research indicates with an estimated 2,100 unplanned pregnancies prevented, Utah could see net saving of up to $11 million over 3 years.

A fiscal note on the bill, which does not count savings, estimates the measure would cost the state $37,000 the first year and $500,000 the second.