- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Republican state lawmakers in Utah represent six of 10 Senate districts and seven out of 10 House districts with the greatest share of people caught in the Obamacare “coverage gap” affecting states that refused to expand Medicaid under the health overhaul, according to a report in the Salt Lake Tribute.

Voices for Utah Children, an advocacy group for low-income residents, highlighted the representation in a bid to pressure lawmakers who’ve refused to extend the government-sponsored health program to people making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, as the Affordable Care Act prescribes. The Supreme Court made the Medicaid expansion optional in 2012, and about half of the states opted not to.

The federal government will pay for 100 percent of the expanded population through 2016 before scaling back its contribution to 90 percent in 2020 and beyond. Conservatives in states that chose not to expand their programs say the government can’t be trusted to live up to their obligations, and that the expansion will bust their state budgets down the road, anyway.

But their refusal has resulted in an awkward situation, in which low-income residents make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for Obamacare private coverage subsidies. The subsidies are reserved for people who make between 100 and 400 percent of poverty, because authors of the law assumed that all the states would expand Medicaid.

In Utah, about 58,000 people fall into this gap, according to the Tribune report.

“The report largely confirmed what we already knew, [that] the coverage gap is a problem all across the state, regardless of legislative district,” said Lincoln Nehring, senior policy analyst at Voices, according to the newspaper. “Poverty is pervasive. It impacts every corner of the state regardless of party affiliation.”

 

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