It’s the song that never ends. The fight over Medicaid expansion will continue Utah’s Capitol Hill during the 2016 session that begins in January.
RyLee Curtis, a policy analyst with the Utah Health Policy Project, says expansion advocates have made a lot of progress in the three years that lawmakers have been working on the issue.
“We could have been a ‘hell no’ state like Texas,” she says. “We’ve made leaps and bounds forward, but we just can’t seem to cross the finish line.”
Curtis thinks that lawmakers will probably pass some incremental expansion this year, but the fact that it’s an election year complicates things.
“Everybody understands the gap now. They understand there’s a need out there,” she says. “Maybe we’re delayed by a year by this next election season, but doesn’t mean that this issue goes away. Even if they try to patch it with a band-aid, the wound is still there.”
House Republicans are trying to change public perception on Medicaid expansion, claiming that much of the money that’s leaving the state in the form of new taxes is coming back to Utah. Curtis says the numbers don’t add up.
“What we want to know is how many people we are leaving out and how many dollars are going to be coming back if we do this expansion? I think we won the policy argument that if you expand Medicaid, you get those federal tax dollars back. That’s the best policy for the state.”