Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed a bill into law today that expands Medicaid coverage to the poorest among Utah’s population.
The ceremonial signing took place at 4th Street Clinic in Salt Lake City where a majority of clients will benefit from the expansion. The law provides full Medicaid coverage to 16,000 people who are chronically homeless, involved in the criminal justice system or have mental health or substance abuse issues.
Governor Herbert says the law is a good step forward.
“This will give us the opportunity to see what the data shows,” Herbert says. “What the costs are actually going to be rather than speculation and I hope it gives us the opportunity to build on this and do more in the future.”
But many people argued the expansion doesn’t reach enough people.
Governor Herbert’s Healthy Utah plan would have expanded coverage to more than 126,000 Utahns, but it failed to get enough support from lawmakers during the 2015 legislative session.
Monte Hanks is the client services director at 4th Street Clinic. He says Medicaid will open many doors for clients.
“We can get them to specialists,” Hanks says. “We can get more people to primary healthcare docs. What people don’t get is a lot of homeless are trying to work and some of them haven’t been treated for so many years. How are you going to work when you’re sick?”
Governor Herbert also signed a bill Friday that provides $10 million to beef up homeless services and build new shelters.