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Thousands of Utahns might have qualified for Medicaid, but won't

Published February 11, 2014 3:09 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

More than 53,800 people along the Wasatch Front might have qualified for Medicaid if Utah had opted into the program's expansion.

Those numbers come from a new study and interactive map produced the Urban Institute. The map looks at Medicaid, which was expanded to include a whole new group of people as a result of Obamacare — or, officially, the Affordable Care Act. Now, people making as much as 138 percent of the poverty level could get Medicaid.

However, states can choose to participate or not in the Medicaid expansion and, in the words of a recent Tribune editorial, the state is "dithering" on the issue.

The result is thousands of Utahns caught in limbo, the Urban Institute speculates. On the east and north sides of Salt Lake County, there are likely 17,400 people who would have qualified for Medicaid under the expansion. The west side of the county is home to 12,600 people in the same category. Utah County had 12,900 people stuck in that same spot while Davis and Weber Counties also had 12,900, collectively.

The people falling into this category are free to buy and get subsidized rates, though as Emily Badger at The Atlantic Cities notes the Medicaid expansion would have made that step unnecessary. Badger also points out that these numbers only include adults, not children, and that the burden of the uninsured falls disproportionately on urban centers.

The Medicaid expansion has been a contentious issue among Utah's lawmakers. In November, legislators rejected the full expansion. Gov. Gary Herbert later promised that Medicaid would expand, while lawmakers fired back that they would refuse any expansion that involves federal funding.

— Jim Dalrymple II

Twitter: @jimmycdii