Washington, D.C. – Feb. 11, 2019 – Today lawmakers in Utah passed a bill to reverse the will of Utah voters and undermine access to effective cancer prevention and treatment. The bill, now headed to Governor Gary Herbert’s desk, would delay the start date of Medicaid expansion in Utah, lower the income threshold for eligibility and add administrative barriers that would restrict access to the program. The following is a statement from Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).
“Utah voters demonstrated their strong support for Medicaid expansion in November when they voted to increase access to Medicaid for 150,000 additional low-income residents. Now, lawmakers are ignoring what voters want by passing a weaker, costlier bill.
“If signed into law by the governor, this bill would limit the number of people who could enroll in Medicaid and condition eligibility on compliance with a work or community engagement requirement – a policy that could seriously disadvantage cancer patients and survivors who are often physically unable to comply with these new requirements. Furthermore, it will lower the income eligibility level from 138 percent of the poverty level (roughly $17,200 per year for an individual or $35,500 for a family of four) approved by voters down to just 100 percent (roughly $12,500 for an individual or $25,700 for a family of four), leaving an estimated 60,000 more low-income individuals without an adequate, affordable health coverage option.
“We know that access to health coverage is the single most important factor for surviving cancer. Uninsured individuals are more likely than those with insurance to be diagnosed with later stage cancers, when the disease is more expensive to treat and patients are less likely to survive. In addition to cancer treatments, Medicaid provides enrollees with access to critical cancer prevention services as well as lifesaving screenings to detect the disease early. With more than 11,600 Utah residents expected to be diagnosed with cancer this year alone, lawmakers’ decision to limit access to care for low-income residents could be a matter of life or death for many Utahns.
“ACS CAN urges Gov. Herbert to veto this legislation and respect the will of Utah voters by implementing the lifesaving Medicaid expansion proposal they supported in November. Anything less than that will be a major step backward for public health in Utah.”
To date, 36 states and the District of Columbia have increased eligibility for Medicaid. ACS CAN continues to work with lawmakers in the remaining states to extend Medicaid coverage to more low-income residents, allowing them to see a doctor regularly, get cancer screenings and access treatment.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state and local levels. ACS CAN empowers advocates across the country to make their voices heard and influence evidence-based public policy change as well as legislative and regulatory solutions that will reduce the cancer burden. As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is critical to the fight for a world without cancer. For more information, visit www.fightcancer.org