Critics question shrinking expectations for Medicaid extension

SALT LAKE CITY — Advocates for Utah’s homeless and mentally ill are questioning the Legislature’s partial Medicaid expansion plan after learning it will cover 6,000 fewer people than originally promised.

The proposal — signed by Gov. Gary Herbert in March and supported by Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams — was trumpeted as a compassionate strategy to cover 16,300 of Utah’s neediest, including 12,500 childless adults in extreme poverty and 3,800 low-income parents.

The Utah Department of Health is now estimating that the true number of individuals who can be covered is closer to 10,000.

That includes 6,000 to 7,000 childless adults in extreme poverty, according to spokesman Tom Hudachko — about half of what legislators originally billed.

Hudachko said the third-party actuaries hired by the health department believe the cost of treating such patients will be higher than what was anticipated by legislative fiscal analysts.

“We certainly recognize that this plan is not going to cover everybody that’s in the coverage gap,” he said. “That’s been known and expected since this legislation was originally envisioned. But I think what we can hang our hats on is that it’s a starting point.”

Rylee Curtis, a senior

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