Utah Governor Proposes Alternative Plan to Expand Medicaid

February 28, 2014

Utah Governor Gary Herbert, a Republican, announced yesterday his proposal to expand health coverage to roughly 100,000 Utahans who are newly eligible for the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. These individuals have household incomes at or below $15,500 for an individual and $32,500 for a family of four. However, Herbert will seek an alternative plan to access federal Medicaid funds for this coverage.

The proposal, named the “Healthy Utah Plan,” would be a three-year pilot program supported with a block grant from the federal government. The grant would fund subsidies to enable newly eligible individuals to purchase private insurance coverage. Iowa and Arkansas have already received federal waivers to implement similar coverage expansion plans.

Gov. Herbert would also like to allow entire families to access subsidies to enroll in private plans. Previously eligible beneficiaries, including children, will remain in traditional Medicaid coverage, while parents would be eligible for private coverage under Herbert’s coverage expansion plan. Herbert wants to provide parents the option to enroll their entire families in the same coverage through private plans. However, enrollees in private plans would have to pay copays (an average of roughly $420 annually) for their coverage.

For Herbert’s plan to be implemented, the Utah Legislature would have to approve the proposal in the 45 days left in this year’s session. The alternative approach to the Medicaid expansion would also require approval from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Check out Governor Herbert’s press release here, and a summary from the Washington Post’s GovBeat blog here.