Poll: Utahns Want Larger Medicaid Expansion

Utah State Capitol 06Most Utahns say the GOP-controlled Legislature didn’t go far enough in Medicaid expansion this year, a new UtahPolicy poll finds.

Republican House members refused to go along with Gov. Gary Herbert’s Healthy Utah expansion plan, which would have brought in hundreds of millions of dollars in federal Medicaid expansion monies and covered tens of thousands more needy Utahns.

Instead, a GOP-House generated plan was passed and signed by a disappointed Herbert, which only covers around 16,000 of Utah’s poorest, sickest people and doesn’t get the extra funds that would have come through Obamacare’s expansion.

Pollster Dan Jones & Associates finds that 51 percent of Utahns believe Medicaid should have been expanded to include all those in other expansion plans – not just what the Legislature did.

Nineteen percent support just what the Legislature did.

Eighteen percent didn’t want any expansion of Medicaid at all, and 12 percent didn’t know.

Utahns are fairly well educated on Medicaid expansion, Herbert and lawmakers have been debating various expansions for more than two years, with Healthy Utah passing the 2015 Senate, but failing in the House.

The so-called Gang of Six – an all-Republican study group of top state officeholders – came up with a plan last summer that went nowhere. There wasn’t even a formal vote after it died a quick death in the House GOP caucus.

Another compromise, HB437, finally did pass in March and Herbert signed it into law, saying he hopes future Legislatures may revisit Medicaid expansion.

The expansion is a campaign issue between Republican Herbert and his GOP challenger, Jonathan Johnson.

Johnson says he wouldn’t expand Medicaid at all, arguing Healthy Utah would be too costly and just lead to tax hikes.

Herbert defends his failed option, saying it would bring into Utah hundreds of millions of dollars state taxpayers are sending to D.C. under Obamacare, and should get at least much of it back.

Jones finds that Utah Republicans are split over Medicaid expansion:

  • 34 percent of the rank-and-file want to cover move folks than the 16,000 the Legislature approved.
  • 28 percent say what lawmakers passed in the 2016 session is adequate.
  • 24 percent are with Johnson, no Medicaid expansion at all.

Johnson impressed Republicans by getting 55 percent of Saturday’s4,000 GOP delegates in convention. Herbert got 45 percent, and so officially advances to a primary with Johnson, even though Herbert would have gotten there anyway by gathering 28,000 voter signatures under the new SB54 election law.

Now Herbert and Johnson have nine weeks to convince GOP primary voters to pick them. Herbert is well ahead in the last Jones poll for UtahPolicy.

In his new survey, Jones finds that Democrats really want Medicaid expanded more – 87 percent say expand medical coverage to more Utahns sick and poor, 5 percent say what the GOP Legislature did is adequate, 5 percent say don’t expand Medicaid at all, and 3 percent don’t know.

Most political independents also favor greater Medicaid expansion, 67 percent want all covered, 10 percent like what the Legislature did, 14 percent say don’t expand the program at all, and 9 percent don’t know.

Thus, Johnson has a slight advantage with GOP voters on this issue going into the June 28 primary with Herbert.

But should Herbert win the nomination, he would be on the right side of most Utah voters as he tries for his third election to the governorship.

Some other demographic findings in the latest Jones’ poll on Medicaid:

  • 31 percent of those who said they are “very conservative” politically are with Johnson – no expansion at all — 28 percent say they like what the Legislature did, 28 percent favor greater expansion, and 13 percent don’t know.
  • 39 percent of those who said they are “very active” in the LDS Church support greater expansion, 26 percent of active Mormons like what lawmakers did, 21 percent don’t want any Medicaid expansion, and 14 percent don’t know.

Those who said they are Mormons, but not active, Catholics; Protestants; and have no religion; all greatly (58-to-79 percent) favor expanding Medicaid to more of the sick and poor.

LDS Church leaders did not endorse Herbert’s Healthy Utah, although leaders did say more should be done to help the poor and sick.

Many other religious groups in Utah did support Healthy Utah, as did various civic groups and, ultimately, Democratic legislators.

Jones polled 600 Utahns from March 23 to April 5. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.