Healthcare advocates converged on the Capitol Friday to encourage lawmakers to expand Medicaid to more low income residents, but state lawmakers held off on debate for now, and said the Governor will have to make the decision.
Family physician Ray Ward kicked off the meeting of the Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee with an impassioned plea for the expansion of Medicaid to cover an estimated 145,000 more low-income Utahns.
“Access to basic healthcare makes the difference between staying healthy and being able to work. When someone gets sick, access to basic healthcare through Medicaid can make someone well again, and sometimes access to basic healthcare is the difference between living and dying,” Ward told the committee.
He was followed by about a dozen advocates for low income residents and the disabled all arguing in favor of the expansion. But Republican Representative Earl Tanner pointed out that the decision is up to Governor Gary Herbert.
“I think it’s our part to encourage and to express our point of view as to what the Governor should do, but I’d like us all to understand that this is an executive decision,” said Tanner.
If there are higher costs, however, the legislature will have to approve the tab. The committee put off debate on the topic until February 19th – when the results of a study on the costs of expanding — or not expanding — Medicaid are expected.