Poll: Utahns Favor Some Sort of Medicaid Expansion

As Rep. Jim Dunnigan’s long-awaited Medicaid expansion bill finally sees the light of day on Utah’s Capitol Hill, nearly 70% of Utahns say they favor lawmakers doing something to expand the program to help uninsured Utahns.

The new UtahPolicy.com survey finds 68% of Utahns say they support lawmakers passing a plan to expand Medicaid to cover uninsured Utahns. That number includes 36% who say they “strongly support” the expansion. About a quarter of Utahns (27%) oppose the expansion, including 13% who are “strongly” opposed.

Those numbers are nearly identical to a January survey from UtahPolicy.com that found 70% of Utahns supporting the expansion.
House Majority Leader Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, unveiled his proposal for partial Medicaid expansion on Wednesday afternoon. HB437 provides coverage for approximately 16,000 of the poorest Utahns. The bill carries a $100 million price tag, which includes $30 million in state money and $70 million from the federal government, which is the current 70/30 split with the federal government.
If Utah were to accept full Medicaid expansion or adopt a plan like Gov. Gary Herbert’s Healthy Utah, the split with the feds would go to 90/10. But many worry that would leave Utah on the hook for a bigger price tag down the road if the feds were to cut back on their portion of the bill.
Dunnigan’s plan would leave an estimated 27,000 Utahns without coverage that would be eligible under the more expansive plans.

Support for expansion is much softer among Republicans than Democrats and political independents in Utah.
  • 60% of Republicans support expanding Medicaid, but 42% of that number say they only “somewhat” support the plan.
  • 89% of Democrats favor Medicaid expansion, including a whopping 75% who “strongly” support.
  • 75% of political independents are supportive of expansion.

Utahns to the far right politically do not favor expansion, which is not surprising given the right’s vitriol when it comes to the Affordable Care Act or ObamaCare.
– 54% of “very conservative” Utahns oppose some sort of expansion compared with 40% who are in favor.
– Utahns who describe themselves as “somewhat conservative” favor expansion 65-29%.
– Moderates like expansion 82-14%.
Utahns on the left side of the political scale overwhelmingly favor Medicaid expansion.

Surprisingly, only a slight majority of those who describe themselves as members of the Tea Party oppose expansion 54-44%. Utahns who are not affiliated with the Tea Party favor Medicaid expansion 71-23%.
There are two other proposals on the Hill this session for Medicaid expansion. Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, is sponsoring SB77 which would have the state accept full Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. That plan costs the state approximately $50 million, but would draw down many more federal funds than Dunnigan’s plan.
Rep. Raymond Ward, R-Bountiful, is pushing HB302, which is similar to Gov. herbert’s ill-fated Healthy Utah from the last session.
Healthy Utah passed the Senate last year and died in the House. House leadership has made it clear that if any plan passes this session, it will probably be Dunnigan’s stripped-down bill.
The survey was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates from February 10-15, 2016 among 625 adult Utahns. Respondents were contacted through live telephone calls (land line and cell phone) and an online panel. It has a margin of error +/- 3.92%.