Utah Senate passes bill to scale back voter-approved Medicaid expansion

Utah Senate passes bill to scale back voter-approved Medicaid expansion
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Republicans in the Utah state Senate on Monday passed a bill to roll back the Medicaid expansion that voters approved in November in a controversial move opposed by Democrats.

The Senate voted 22-7, with all six Democrats and one Republican opposed, to pass a bill shrinking the Medicaid expansion to a smaller group.

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Voters in the state last year approved a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Under the typical Medicaid expansion, people with incomes up to 138 percent of the poverty level are eligible for health coverage. The GOP bill would shrink the number of eligible people down to those making less than 100 percent of the poverty level.

Supporters of November’s ballot initiative say GOP state legislators are undoing the will of the people.

"This is the opposite of what Utahns voted for. The voters got it right, and the politicians need to listen," Andrew Roberts, spokesman for the pro-Medicaid expansion group Utah Decides, told the Deseret News.

In another twist, the change approved by the legislature to lower the eligibility would need approval from the Trump administration, in order to provide additional federal funding for the plan.

But neither the Obama administration or the Trump administration has ever approved such a plan, known as a “partial expansion” of Medicaid, because it would only expand the program to a smaller pool of people.

And if the Trump administration does not approve the changes, the bill passed by the Senate would scrap Medicaid expansion in the state.

The bill now goes to the state House, which is also controlled by Republicans.