The Salt Lake Tribune reports from our conservative westward neighbors:
Utah will expand Medicaid to cover more of the state’s uninsured, Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday.
“Doing nothing … I’ve taken off the table. Doing nothing is not an option,” [Pols emphasis] the Republican governor said at his monthly news conference, broadcast live on KUED Channel 7…
Saluting Herbert’s decision, state Democratic party chairman Jim Dabakis said, “We trust that this is not a conditional acceptance, and that the Utah Legislature will see the wisdom in joining so many other states in providing a hand up to [those] desperate for affordable health care.”
…Lawmakers hadn’t abandoned the idea of doing nothing and leaving Medicaid eligibility rules untouched. Herbert essentially rejected that Thursday.
He also vowed to find a remedy for the 60,000 impoverished, uninsured Utahns who fall in a gap that appears in states that waited or refused to expand their Medicaid programs. Those individuals are too poor to qualify for subsidies, or tax credits, to put toward the purchase of private insurance on the federal health exchange.
This change of heart in one of the most conservative states in the nation stands in stark contrast to neighboring Colorado Republicans, who are universally opposed to the expansion of Medicaid health coverage undertaken by Gov. John Hickenlooper. Because the federal government under the Affordable Care Act fully funds the cost of expanding Medicaid eligibility through 2017, and guarantees at least 90% of funding thereafter, the state’s fiscal downside of this expansion is actually quite small.
With that in mind, the question turns ideological, ranging from general opposition to “government health care” to complaints about the “redistribution of wealth” inherent to funding health coverage for the poor. Like former Colorado House Speaker Frank McNulty says:
I can’t in my mind connect the dots between expanding state sponsored health care to a population that can and should rightfully care for themselves…
Every Republican in the Colorado legislature voted against expanding Medicaid with the exception of one, freshman Sen. Larry Crowder. Republican candidates for high office in Colorado this year are, as far as we know, 100% opposed to our state’s recent Medicaid expansion. Naturally, we’d be delighted to correct the record in any individual case, especially if they request that before the Republican primary elections this year.
Because even in beet-red Utah today, “doing nothing is not an option.”