Romney opposes Utah’s Medicaid expansion ballot measure

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Utah Senate candidate Mitt Romney (R) said he supports the state’s efforts to partially expand Medicaid, but does not think a full expansion will be viable.

In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, Romney praised the state’s partial approach, which would use federal money to expand coverage to people earning up to 100 percent of the poverty level. It would also institute a work requirement.

However, the proposal would stop short of ObamaCare’s requirement that expansion cover people earning up to 138 percent of the poverty level, which is about $35,000 for a family of four.  

The state has submitted a request to the Trump administration for approval, which is not guaranteed. A similar proposal from Arkansas to roll back its Medicaid expansion to a partial one was rejected by the administration.

Romney said partial expansion will save the state money, because if the federal government’s share of health care costs were to change, full-expansion states would be on the hook to make up the difference.

“Medicaid expansion is a very complex issue,” Romney told the newspaper. “It requires extensive research and analysis and I think is generally done best by elected representatives of the people.”

The state’s plan will be competing with a measure that will be on the ballot this fall, which would fully expand Medicaid to roughly 150,000 low-income Utahns if it passes.

The measure would combine roughly $90 million in state revenue — through a 0.15 percent sales tax increase — with $800 million in federal funding. Opinion polls suggest about 60 percent of the public favors expansion.

Romney said he thinks the state’s plan is better than the ballot measure.

“What the state has arrived at is a better way,” Romney said.

Romney’s comments stand in contrast to his Democratic opponent Jenny Wilson. She told the Tribune she supported full expansion “from Day One,” and that Utah’s communities would be healthier today if the state had moved forward sooner.

“I believe the single biggest failure of our legislature over the past decade is their inability, or their unwillingness, to do a significant expansion on Medicaid,” Wilson said.

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