Medicaid plan is limited help for Utah’s neediest

As Utah finalizes its bare-bones proposal to expand Medicaid, community advocates say the $30 million plan is a short-term solution for a group of people who mostly live in severe poverty and would be ineligible if they earn more than about $600 a year.

“A panhandler can make more than that,” said Alan Pruhs, the executive director of the Association for Utah Community Health, which represents health centers and clinics that serve the poor.

Pruhs and other affordable health care advocates say it’s great that lawmakers are helping the state’s neediest. But the advocates say Utah would be better off spending about $50 million, triggering an offer from the federal government to pitch in hundreds of millions more and insure more than 100,000 people.

If Utah had taken up the federal government’s offer under President Barack Obama’s health law to take more money and insure more people, the state would be covering a broader group of sicker and healthier people, said RyLee Curtis, a Medicaid policy analyst with the Utah Health Policy Project.

That would help balance costs, but “instead, we’re targeting just the sicker

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