Utah State Capitol 11Nearly three-fourths of Utahns want the upcoming 2016 Legislature to pass some kind of Medicaid expansion to cover low-income, uninsured citizens, a new UtahPolicy poll finds.

Lawmakers convene next Monday for their annual 45-day general session.

And while Medicaid expansion will be on the agenda, by no means is it guaranteed that some kind of plan will be adopted by the GOP-controlled body.

In a new survey, pollster Dan Jones & Associates finds that 70 percent of Utahns want lawmakers to expand the low-income medical coverage plan in some form.

A quarter (25 percent) don’t want any Medicaid expansion, Jones finds, and 5 percent don’t know.

 

As a reader of UtahPolicy knows, GOP Gov. Gary Herbert last year put forward his Healthy Utah plan. It passed the state Senate by one vote (a few Democratic votes needed there).

But it failed in a House vote late in the session. GOP House members passed a more pared down expansion, called Utah Cares. It went nowhere in the Senate.

There was a committee hearing on Healthy Utah in the House (it failed) and further debate and vote on Healthy Utah on the House floor (it failed in a motion to substitute Healthy Utah for Utah Cares, HB446).

And the 2015 session ended with no Medicaid expansion, as provided for in Obamacare.

Herbert then put together a special committee of six leading GOP officeholders, including himself. After months of private meetings, the so-called Gang of Six came up with a plan that would have taxed Utah’s medical community to pay for most of the state’s 10 percent share of expansion under Obamacare.

But both the House and Senate GOP caucuses killed that plan quickly.

Herbert says he won’t push Healthy Utah in the 2016 Legislature, and won’t propose an alternative.

House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, says House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, and other House Republicans will work on yet another alternative – one aimed at just covering the neediest in the so-called coverage gap of around 43,000 low-income Utahns.

That plan has not yet been unveiled.

 

Jones finds in his new survey – just finished last week – that various demographic groupings favor some kind of Medicaid expansion adopted by the upcoming Legislature:

-- Utah Republicans back expansion, 62-32 percent.

-- Political independents want expansion, 74-21 percent.

-- And Utah Democrats really, really want expansion, 96-4 percent.

Medicaid expansion has been before the Utah public for three years now, and it is evident by the small number of “undecideds” that Utahns seem to understand, at least in a broad stroke, what is at stake – health care insurance/coverage for the poorer among us, with Utah taxpayers likely having to pick up some of the cost.

(The split is actually 90 percent fed money, 10 percent state money.)

Utah House Republicans balk at paying even the 10 percent, saying, among other things, that the federal government is broke and won’t keep its 90 percent cost-sharing promise, there is too much uncertainty in estimates of how much expansion would cost the state, and critical programs like public and higher education would be at risk if expansion goes forward.

Leaders of the LDS Church have not endorsed any Medicaid expansion plan but have asked Utahns to be understanding and merciful of the poor.

Jones finds that among those who said they are “very active” in the LDS Church, expansion is favored 64-29 percent.

Even among those who told Jones they are “very conservative” politically, expansion is favored 53-42 percent.

Jones polled 845 adults from Jan. 6-13. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.37 percent.