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Lawmaker Wants to Put Medicaid Expansion on the Ballot

Representative Patrice Arent (D-36)

A Democratic lawmaker is working on legislation that would allow Utah voters to weigh in on expanding Medicaid in the state.

After years of debate but no action on closing the health coverage gap in Utah, House Minority Caucus Manager Patrice Arent thinks it’s time that lawmakers hear from voters. Arent wants to put a nonbinding question on the ballot that would gauge public support.

“The concept is to allow the will of the people to be heard,” Arent says. She says there have been numerous public opinion polls that have shown that a majority of Utahns support some sort of Medicaid expansion, but many of her Republican colleagues in the House don’t put a lot of stock in those polls.

“This will be from the voters, the same voters that elect us. I think they will take that a lot more seriously.”

Arent is sponsoring a bill that would change the election code to allow for a nonbinding opinion question to be submitted to the voters of Utah. The second step is to draft the resolution for a question on Medicaid, but she says she hasn’t written that yet. She’s waiting to see what kind of action her colleagues take to close the coverage gap this session.

If lawmakers approve changes to the election code, Arent says that also opens up the possibility of asking voters what they think about other topics like education funding. All opinion questions must be approved by the legislature though, and Arent doesn’t anticipate that would happen easily on any topic.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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