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Medicaid expansion initiative set for Utah ballot

Medicaid expansion initiative set for Utah ballot
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Utah voters are poised to vote on Medicaid expansion after an advocacy group raised enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot in November.

More than 165,000 signatures will be submitted Monday to place a Medicaid expansion initiative on the ballot. Organizers from the group Utah Decides Healthcare needed more than 113,000 signatures from registered voters to earn a ballot spot.

If approved, the initiative would require the state to expand Medicaid to people making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, and would prohibit enrollment caps.

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Under ObamaCare, the federal government would cover 90 percent of the costs of expansion. The state share would be funded through a 0.15 percent increase in the sales tax.

But the state is simultaneously attempting to expand Medicaid only to people making up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level, rather than the full 138 as required under the health law. Utah’s plan would also institute a work requirement.

Utah is one of 18 states that have yet to expand coverage under ObamaCare using federal money. The proposal, known as a “partial expansion,” would only extend coverage up to 100 percent of the poverty line, about $25,000 for a family of four.

Still, the state estimates the proposal would cover 60,000 people if approved by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

The ballot initiative would cover more than 150,000 people.

CMS has never approved a partial expansion when other states have tried. It recently punted on a similar proposal from Arkansas, in what was seen as a negative sign about the idea's chances of success.

But Arkansas had already fully expanded Medicaid, and was trying to roll back coverage. Utah officials have said they think the fact that they’re a nonexpansion state will convince CMS to approve their plan.