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Utah's Leaders Face Tough Decision on Medicaid Expansion

The Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act leaves Utah to decide for itself whether it wants to expand Medicaid. The court determined that the federal government cannot withhold states' Medicaid allotment if they don't increase their coverage levels. But the federal government can provide extra funds to those states who do choose to expand Medicaid.

Utah’s Chief Deputy Attorney General John Swallow says the Supreme Court ruling is a win for Utah because it prevents the federal government from coercing states.

“Whether or not Medicaid is expanded will now be up to the state," he said. "The state need not fear that if they say no to the expansion, they’re going to lose current dollars. That gives the state a real true choice. The other view, the way it was passed, gave the state no real choice, because by not opting to expand, they risk losing hundreds of millions of dollars they already have right now under the current program.”

The decision is now up to the Governor and the state legislature. Speaking shortly after the ruling was announced, Governor Gary Herbert called the ACA bad policy, and he called on Congress to repeal the law. But he did not have an answer yet on whether Utah would choose to expand Medicaid.

“Well, that’s yet to be decided. We’re just finding out about this right now, but again I’m not going to do something that’s going to bust our budget, I can tell you that. We need to do what’s responsible on behalf of the taxpayers. Like most things, it’s a balancing act of what’s a cost benefit ratio. So we’ll have to analyze that too with Medicaid," Herbert said.

Herbert says his staff is conducting a thorough legal and policy review.

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