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Utah Citizens Beg for Medicaid Expansion While Lawmakers Consider Budget

Andrea Smardon
Utahns in the coverage gap Stacy Stanford, Kylie Toponce, and Dan Davidson wait at the Capitol during a closed-door House GOP caucus meeting. (October 13, 2015)

Medicaid expansion is under consideration again at the Utah legislature. Advocates and members of the public showed up in force Thursday morning for a committee meeting on the issue.

More than 30 people came to ask lawmakers to fund a Medicaid expansion. They each had a minute to make their case.

“Look with me on this odyssey that I take you on, and where I started with my mother,” said Karena Brown, as she begins to cry. “I’m going to show you a picture of her and I when I was a baby, and a picture of us approximately a month before she died.”

“If I go get a job where I lose my Medicaid, my daughter loses her insulin. That’s not a choice I can make,” said DelAnne Jessop Haslam.

“One of the saddest things we see is people who have to drop out of treatment or who can’t come into treatment, because they can’t afford it,” said Jerry Costley.

“Please do whatever you can to make the decisions for Medicaid to go forward,” said Mary Jo McMillen.

Democratic Senator Gene Davis presented his proposal for a full Medicaid expansion. It would cost the state $51 million dollars a year, but it would also bring back more than $343 million federal dollars to the state of Utah - a bargain according to Davis, but committee chair GOP Senator Allen Christensen sees things differently.

“If we pass Medicaid expansion, it would make our job simpler because our entire list of 70 requests would be gone because this would take precedence over all of them,” Christensen said. “We could fund nothing else this year.”

Republican Representative Ray Ward presented another full Medicaid expansion proposal, which would be partially funded with a hospital assessment and a tax on e-cigarettes, taking 27 million dollars from the state General Fund. House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan is working on a more limited proposal which would fund a third of those in the coverage gap, and bring in less federal money. He’s asking for 20 million dollars.

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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