Utah is poised to expand Medicaid, with 59 percent of people saying in a new poll from The Salt Lake Tribune that they support a ballot initiative that would provide health care to roughly 150,000 low-income people in the state.
According to the poll, which The Tribune released Thursday, the percentage of people who support the initiative has increased, up from the 54 percent in favor in a poll last June. The share of voters opposed to the measure fell slightly, from 35 percent in June to 33 percent now.
The ballot measure would increase sales tax in Utah by 0.15 percent in order for the state to contribute about $90 million to the program, while the federal government would contribute $800 million.
So far, 33 states and Washington D.C. have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Earlier this year, lawmakers in Utah approved a partial expansion that includes work requirements for enrollees. (As ThinkProgress has previously reported, work requirements ultimately strip thousands of people of coverage.)
According to the Tribune’s poll, 30 percent of voters “strongly favor” Medicaid expansion, compared to 29 percent of people who “somewhat support,” and 15 percent who “somewhat oppose.” Eighteen percent of voters said they “strongly oppose” and eight percent said they didn’t know.
Interestingly, the poll found, 14 percent of Republicans in the state said they strongly support the initiative. Among Democrats, 70 percent of respondents said they strongly support the initiative, as did 33 percent of unaffiliated voters.
Some Utah lawmakers have vowed to overturn the will of voters in the state if the ballot measure is approved.
“With the public vote, I don’t think that’s sacrosanct,” Republican state Sen. Jacob Anderegg told The Tribune, adding he’s prepared to sponsor a repeal bill. “If we don’t [repeal Prop 3] and the numbers turn out where we think they are, I don’t know how we’re going to fund it.”
No state that has expanded Medicaid has reversed the decision, however, something one of Anderegg’s Republican colleagues noted in an interview with the paper.
“Other states have figured out a way to make this work,” State Rep. Ray Ward said. “Their people are benefiting. And we can figure out a way to make this work.”
Medicaid expansion is one of a number of interesting progressive initiatives on the ballot in the conservative state this November. Voters in the state will also weigh in on the creation of an independent redistricting committee, as well as the legalization of medical marijuana.
Even in Utah, the medical marijuana initiative appears to be overwhelmingly favored.
Initially, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which wields substantial social and political power in the state, opposed the initiative. Apparently fearing an embarrassing defeat, however, the church recently came out in favor of a highly restrictive version of legalization.