Salt Lake City, Utah- (ABC4 Utah) – Another ballot initiative has officially been filed with the Lt. Governor’s Office.
This is potentially the fifth initiative that could end up on the ballot for the General Election next year.
This one will ask Utah voters to fully expand Medicaid, as originally intended under the Affordable Care Act.
“We’ve been at loggerheads with the traditional legislative process for the last four years,” said Matt Slonaker, with Utah Health Policy Project.
That’s why advocates for Medicaid expansion, like many others, are hoping to take their cause straight to the voter.
They want to close the coverage gap that tens of thousands of Utahn’s are trapped in. Not only do they not have health insurance, they can’t get it, because they make too much for Medicaid and not enough to get it on the ACA exchange.
“The most disturbing, and really the sad part here is that I’ve known two individuals that couldn’t access insurance, they were in the coverage gap, and unfortunately they passed away. I don’t think that in a state like Utah that should ever happen,” said Slonaker.
Slonaker and other advocates say the Utah Decides Healthcare Act of 2018 will change that.
If successful, the initiative will protect state funding for the traditional CHIP and Medicaid programs into the future. It would also establish full Medicaid expansion.
That means all Utahns, who are at, or below 138% of the federal poverty level would be covered. That’s an estimated 127,000 people by 2021.
To cover the cost it would impose a .15% increase to the sales tax.
That’s where it’s running into opposition.
“It’s not an issue of compassion, we can all say we are well intentioned, we want to help those in need. It’s a question of budget and finances,” said Connor Boyack, with the Libertas Institute.
Boyack says once the state commits, costs can get out of control. He points to Arizona, where he says it cost four times the estimate.
“They can’t actually determine how much it will cost. Which means the legislature is going to have to figure out how to increase taxes even more, or take that money from education or elsewhere,” said Boyack.
Slonaker insists that won’t happen.
“We’ve been very conservative about it, and paid a lot of attention to making sure we have the revenue,” said Slonaker.
Other initiatives address education funding, medical marijuana, an independent redistricting commission and Count My Vote has also filed a new initiative.