- Associated Press - Sunday, April 10, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah’s governor and lawmakers have agreed on a pared-down plan to expand Medicaid after wrestling with the issue for years, but the law still needs approval from federal officials.

The plan, which Gov. Gary Herbert approved in late March, is estimated to insure about 16,000 people, mostly childless adults who are homeless or in treatment and offender programs.

State health officials hope to begin enrolling people in the plan by January 2017, but in order to meet that goal, Utah has to submit the proposal to federal officials by July 1, according to Kolbi Young with the Utah Department of Health.

A draft of the plan will be available for public comment in April or May, Young told the Deseret News (https://bit.ly/1owaoQ5 ).

The plan covers far fewer people than a proposal to cover more than 100,000 people under President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.



Herbert, a Republican, and others had proposed that Utah take advantage of millions offered under the law to help more of the poor, but GOP legislators rejected the idea several years in a row, saying they worried the program would still be too expensive for the state.

The plan is expected to cost Utah about $30 million, with just under half of that would be paid for by a tax on hospitals. The federal government would contribute about $70 million more to cover the rest of the cost.

House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan, a Taylorsville Republican who sponsored the law, said he expects the state will have an easy time getting federal officials to approve the plan. Dunnigan said lawmakers were talking regularly with federal health officials as they were drafting and voting on the law.

Mike Fierberg, a regional spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in an email to The Associated Press that the agency would not comment on a proposal until deciding whether or not to approve the plan.

Advocates who hoped Utah would cover more people say they hope legislators will revisit the issue next year to look at growing the program.

Dunnigan said he’s more concerned with getting the current law up and running. After that, he said, lawmakers can assess whether they’ll strike another deal with a new president and administration that takes a more flexible approach to the health law.

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Information from: Deseret News, https://www.deseretnews.com

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