Utah Political Organization Pushes Medicaid Expansion Ballot Question

Published October 31, 2017

A coalition of political advocacy groups in Utah is trying to place a proposition on the 2018 ballot to request voter approval to expand Medicaid eligibility in the state.

The federal Affordable Act Care, commonly known as Obamacare, rewards states by substantially subsidizing Medicaid expansion with federal funds.

On October 2, representatives of Utah Decides Health Care submitted paperwork for the proposed initiative to Lieutenant Gov. Spencer Cox. If Cox approves the initiative’s language, the campaign will have to host seven town hall hearings and collect 113,143 signatures from registered voters by April 15, 2018, in order to place the proposition on the ballot.

‘It’s Not Right’

Christie Herrera, vice-president for state affairs at the Foundation for Government Accountability, says Medicaid expansion does much more harm than good.

“Some think Obamacare’s expansion is a panacea,” Herrera said. “In reality, it will only hurt the truly needy and rob resources from schools, public safety, and other state priorities. It’s not right that Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion prioritizes able-bodied, working-age adults with no kids over the aged and disabled.”

Unexpectedly High Costs

The cost of Medicaid expansion often exceeds expectations, Herrera says, giving taxpayers a bad case of sticker shock.

“Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion is not a good deal for taxpayers,” Herrera said. “Every expansion state with available data has blown past initial enrollment projections. Some expansion states have more than four times the number of able-bodied adults than they ever thought would enroll.”

Medicaid expansion undermines the surest cure for poverty, which is to get people get back to work and self-sufficiency, Herrera says.

“The best way to bring about economic prosperity is to get people back to work, not put them on another failed welfare program,” Herrera said.

Spend Now, Suffer Later

Michael Melendez, director of policy at The Libertas Institute, says increasing entitlement spending now means cutting that spending later.

“Medicaid expansion may achieve its goal in the short term, but inevitably, as the federal government cannot afford to pay for this Medicaid expansion in the long run, states would be forced to pay an ever-increasing amount for expansion,” Melendez said. “Eventually, the state would have to cut Medicaid benefits for a portion of recipients or cut the quality of care for all individuals on Medicaid, to avoid going into massive debt.”

Qui Bono?

Medicaid expansion is a boondoggle benefiting the government and politically connected businesses, Melendez says.

“Government bureaucracies and the health care industry will benefit the most from Medicaid expansion, since it will continue to fuel an ever-increasing government program that guarantees a certain amount of revenue for the health care industry,” Melendez said. “As in most government programs, oversight, innovation, and quality will be lacking, but the overall service will be expensive to taxpayers.”

Proposes Alternative Cures

Instead of spending more of other people’s money, the key to improving the quality of health care is getting governments out of the doctor’s office, Melendez says.

“We can start by reducing the barriers to entry for health care professionals, along with the burdens of licensure and limits on scope of practice,” Melendez said. “Lawmakers could reduce barriers on concierge and telemedicine, direct-pay models, out-of-state practitioners, medical cost-sharing, and charity care.

“We can explore options for consumers to opt for service agreements that incorporate certain tort reforms and damage caps,” Melendez said. “We could also deregulate insurance plans in Utah for those that are exempt from Obamacare.”