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Report: Medicaid Expansion Could Save Hundreds of Utah Lives

Utah is one of four states deciding whether to expand its Medicaid program in the 2018 elections. (makelessnoise/Flickr)
Utah is one of four states deciding whether to expand its Medicaid program in the 2018 elections. (makelessnoise/Flickr)
October 31, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY - Utah voters will decide next week whether to expand Medicaid access to more low-income people in the state. A new report measures just how much that would impact Utahns' lives and pocketbooks.

The report from the Center for American Progress said Medicaid expansion in Utah would save 240 lives per year. Proposition 3 on the Nov. 6 ballot would open the health-care program to adults living at 138 percent of the poverty line or less, which is an estimated 150,000 people.

Rachel West, director of poverty research for the Center for American Progress, said the expansion would go a long way to keeping Utahns out of debt.

"From our report," she said, "we would also expect to see about $180 million less that families would be paying to third-party debt collectors; $45 million more kept in the pockets of families because of less costly credit; almost $100 million savings on public safety."

More than 30 states and the District of Columbia already have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The report found that if all the remaining states did the same, 14,000 lives nationwide would be saved each year. The Utah expansion plan would be paid for with federal funding and a small sales-tax increase.

Opponents have raised concerns about the cost of expanding the program, but West said research shows the cost of having people go without health insurance is even more burdensome to taxpayers.

"When people who are uninsured then have to go to the hospital and seek care when they have an emergency," she said, "we know that hospitals, and also taxpayers, are already picking up the tab for that."

The report said Medicaid expansion in Utah also could contribute to reduced infant mortality, increased early cancer diagnoses and fewer cases of uninsured opioid-related hospitalizations.

The report is online at americanprogress.org.

Katherine Davis-Young, Public News Service - UT