On Thursday, Governor Gary Herbert announced that Utah will not be expanding Medicaid, but will instead pursue a block grant from the federal government to benefit the medically frail and those Utahns with the most need of assistance with healthcare expenses.
Speaking to assembled media and stakeholder advocates at the capitol, Herbert outlined a new plan for his state’s residents that he believes allows Utah to take fewer dollars from the federal government and do more with that money. Called “Healthy Utah,” the Governor referred to it as “…sustainable and cost-effective medical coverage for Utah’s uninsured.”
The state has unveiled a website detailing this alternative plan: www.HealthyUtah.org
Qualifying factors for Healthy Utah coverage include a Utahn’s ability to work, their income level, access to care through employers, and their specific needs. As one of the chief stewards of the taxpayer’s monies, Governor Herbert told the state that “Utah taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay four times to help those in need.” This innovation in the state’s approach to healthcare assistance allows the state legislature to re-apportion funding that was being left open while the state’s 2015 budget is finalized in the next two weeks of the 2014 legislative session.
Governor Herbert declared Utah taxpayers currently overpay for those in need, in the form of subsidizing emergency room care, by paying federal taxes which fund the federal healthcare plan, and through their charitable contributions, including tithing and other contributions in the case of his state’s faithful and philanthropic.
Approximately 111,000 Utahns between the ages of 19 and 64 will receive coverage within this three-year pilot program, if they earn less than $15,500 per year. Healthy Utah will help families obtain healthcare through a single plan in an effort to avoid confusion and inefficiencies arising from complex participant rules and regulations. Those currently receiving Medicaid would be able to opt-in on the same plan that their parents select. “Medicaid would continue to provide cost sharing and ‘rap-around’ coverage for children to ensure that they continue to receive the same level of coverage as they have prior to Utah’s plan announcement and roll-out.”
Other details include cost-sharing provisions for individuals with higher income. Participants pay 2% of their income toward premiums. For an individual income at the threshold, $310.42 of their income would go toward Healthy Utah premiums. Participants pay “on the average, 6% of the cost of services received through deductibles, co-pay charges and co-insurance costs, making the average in annual medical costs and premiums approximately $420, per the state’s analysis,” according to Herbert.
As this program is unique, it is unclear if the federal government will approve Herbert’s idea of a block grant. Debate continues to rage in both the House and the Senate, with each chamber having healthcare expansion bills advancing through the legislative process.