HUFF PO: Utah Voters Approved Medicaid Expansion At The Ballot Box. The GOP Is Trying To Undo It.

On Election Day, a majority of Utah voters approved a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid coverage to an estimated 150,000 low-income adults. The Republican-led state Legislature has other ideas.

The Utah Senate approved a bill Wednesday that would toss out a grassroots-driven, voter-backed ballot initiative to offer Medicaid benefits to any Utahn earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level (about $16,000 a year for a single person), paid for by raising the sales tax on certain goods from 4.7 percent to 4.85 percent.

The legislation instead would expand Medicaid to fewer people, enable Utah to receive less federal money for the program and impose limitations on benefits, including work requirements. And the entire plan hinges on a dubious promise of federal approval for aspects of the state Senate bill.

The Utah GOP clearly is prioritizing overturning the voters, considering the Legislature has been in session since just Monday and the bill made it out its Senate committee Tuesday and to the floor Wednesday. The fact that 53 percent of voters spoke in favor of a full Medicaid expansion at the ballot box in November is not swaying Utah Republican legislators, who have resisted the expansion since it became available in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act.

The Utah ballot initiative, known as Proposition 3, not only received majority support statewide but also in most state Senate districts, the Utah Health Policy Project reported. According to a Salt Lake Tribune analysis of the vote Wednesday, 10 Republican senators representing districts where a majority voted in favor of the expansion are supporting the bill to modify it, including the legislation’s main sponsor, Sen. Allen Christensen. A plurality of Utahns opposes changing the voter-backed policy, according to a poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates.

“You’ve got to defer to the will of the people at some point,” said state Rep. Brian King, the minority leader of the Utah House of Representatives and one of 16 Democrats in the 75-member lower chamber of the Utah State Legislature. “We should not be doing anything to substantively alter that Proposition 3 in a way that delays the implementation one more day.”

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