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Medicaid Expansion To Join Growing Field Of Citizen-Led Ballot Initiatives

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At least four ballot initiatives are expected to go before voters next year - and there might soon be a fifth.

A new group called Utah Decides is preparing to launch a ballot initiative next week to expand Medicaid in the state.


About 30 states have expanded the federal program since the passing of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, but Utah is one of the 19 states that hasn’t.

Jason Stephenson, a spokesman for Utah Health Policy Project, one of the backers of the initiative, says it’s time to change that.

“What happened is that Utah has come close in previous years to expanding Medicaid - to closing the coverage gap that about 80,000 Utahns are stuck in - but we haven’t completed the deal,” he says.  

The initiative would expand health coverage to Utahns with incomes less than about $16,600 a year for individuals, or roughly $34,000 for a family of four.

It also proposes a bump in the state sales tax from 4.7 percent to 4.8 to pay for it.

The Utah Legislature has rejected several attempts to expand Medicaid in the past, citing cost concerns. The state has instead opted for a more narrow waiver for some low-income individuals.

The initiative will join a crowded group of other citizen-led efforts. Ballot measures that are already underway for 2018 include medical marijuana legalization, improved education funding, a direct primary system and bipartisan redistricting.

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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