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Supporters Rally for Medicaid Expansion

Dan Bammes

  Supporters of expanding Utah’s Medicaid program under the President’s health care plan don’t expect to see a decision during the legislative session.   But they came to Utah's state capitol Friday to make their point anyway.  

There were about a hundred people on the capitol steps for a rally in support of Medicaid expansion, but many more links in the paper chains they brought along.  Each of the 150-thousand links represents a Medicaid client in Utah – somebody like Stacey Stanford, who’s been in a wheelchair since a car accident in 2010.

"So 150-thousand pieces of paper may not seem like much," she said, "but that’s 150-thousand lives."

Utah’s governor hasn’t yet decided whether to join the expansion of Medicaid included in the Affordable Care Act.  But the Republican governors of New Jersey and Florida have recently said they will.  And Linda Hilton with the Coalition of Religious Communities says Utah has a closer model it can look to.

Hilton tells KUER, "Governor Jan Brewer, that a lot of Utahns have aligned themselves with on a number of issues, has opted to accept Medicaid money for Arizona, and we think people in Utah, the legislature and the governor’s office, need to look at that as a good precedent."

The demonstrators piled their paper chains in the governor’s office while his staff looked on.  Before he makes a decision, Governor Gary Herbert is waiting for a study that was supposed to be finished two weeks ago.  Herbert has said he's in no hurry.

"We’re not following the lead of any other state," the governor told his monthly news conference on KUED last week.  "We’re going to do what’s in the best interest of the people of Utah, and our taxpayers.  And that decision will probably come later on this year."

Herbert says he could call a special session of the legislature to deal with Medicaid when that study is finally available.

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