Gov. Gary Herbert was helping to pass out holiday turkeys at Crossroads Urban Center on Monday when he got a call from Washington: The federal government approved Utah’s application for full Medicaid expansion.
It was great news, meaning as many as 120,000 low-income Utahns will have access to health insurance with the feds paying 90 cents of every dollar in cost. And they can sign up on Jan. 1.
Bill Tibbitts, an anti-poverty advocate who has fought for the expansion, thanked Herbert for his work to get it done.
“If only they had adopted my Healthy Utah plan five years ago,” the governor replied.
Thank you to @crossroadsurban center for their yearly tradition of feeding families all over Salt Lake. I was grateful to have helped this morning. I hope we may all feel the spirit of giving at this special time. Happy Holidays! pic.twitter.com/CYLzFDzOCg
That is the bittersweet reality of Monday’s announcement. The plan that was ultimately approved is, in almost every way, identical to the expansion plan the governor proposed back in 2014, only to have it shredded by the Republican Legislature.
For more than five years since, these legislators relentlessly fought to block Medicaid expansion and to deny care to those who desperately needed it. They succeeded, until voters revolted.
But even after voters, more than 555,000 of them fed up with the ideologically driven intransigence, took the nearly unprecedented move of backing a ballot initiative, lawmakers immediately dismantled portions of it, and opted for a scaled-back partial expansion.