In some surprising news from one of the most conservative states in the country, Utah’s Republican governor has announced that the state will accept Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. That’s great news both for proponents of the law and, more importantly, for the 60,000 Utah adults who will be eligible for subsidized health care thanks to the expansion.
“Doing nothing...I’ve taken off the table,” Gary Herbert said in a news conference Thursday. “Doing nothing is not an option.”
The Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid eligibility to cover everybody earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, and since the exchanges opened in October, over 6 million people have enrolled in the program, which provides health care to low-income Americans. However, the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that states can opt-out of this mostly-free money if they so desire. So far, 21 Republican-controlled states have done so, effectively denying health care to roughly eight million people.
"That’s not right, it’s not fair, and I’m going to work with the legislature to find a solution to that problem," Herbert said of the uninsured in his state. "We have 45 days and we will have a solution by the end of this session."
Herbert’s decision marks an important symbolic milestone for the Affordable Care Act: The majority of states in the country have now accepted the Medicaid expansion. That’s not including the District of Columbia, which also accepted it, and Virginia, which denied it when recently-indicted former Governor Bob McDonnell was in charge but will most likely accept it under current Governor Terry McAuliffe.
It’s also a reminder to liberals — perhaps an uncomfortable one — that even a politician who’s done everything in his power to prevent gay people from getting married can, sometimes, when the stars align, affect positive change in unrelated areas of policy.