Local group rallies for Medicaid expansion in Utah

- SALT LAKE CITY, (ABC 4 Utah) – As Governor Gary Herbert considers several options to expand Medicaid in Utah, one group is sending him a message.

Members of Utahn's for the Medicaid Expansion or U4ME, are making their voices heard at the Capitol.

Avery Pizzuto, 13, is part of the group’s rally cry.

Her coverage bounces between Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.

"I have type-one diabetes, so without it I don't know what I’d do, because I have to get a lot of supplies for my type on diabetes," said Pizzuto

Avery's mom is raising three girls on her own.

After getting sick and eventually losing her job, she was able to get on Medicaid and it saved her life.

"She'd go to doctors and couldn't get help because she didn't have insurance and finally she went into an ER and they helped her out. She got Medicaid and if she didn't get Medicaid we wouldn't have found out she had cancer," said Pizzuto.

Avery wrote a letter about her family's experience.

After reading it at the rally on Wednesday she joined other citizens, medical professionals and church groups in marching their message to the Governor’s Office.

Lincoln Nehring, with Voices of Utah children says the state is falling short when it comes to covering children.

He says census data from 2012 shows only 6 states have higher uninsured rates.

"Those families that have jobs, but their employer is not offering health care coverage, those are struggling and predominantly those are the low and moderate income families," said Nehring.

Nehring says 10.1% of Utah children are uninsured... He is pushing Medicaid expansion as a way to get the state closer to the national average of 7.1%.

Democratic Representative, Brian King is part of the congressional delegation pushing for full expansion, up to 138% of poverty.

He says not only will it expand coverage to those that need it, but it will also provide crucial funds from the feds.

"We've got literally hundreds of millions of dollars on the table from the federal government going to be there regardless of whether we accept this money or not and if we don't accept it, the money will go to other states," said King.

For Avery it's not about money, it’s personal.

"I know I’m not the only one out there that needs this. There are several people out there that this would be a blessing for them and their families and would just be a burden off their shoulders," said Pizzuto.

Full Medicaid expansion was originally part of the Affordable Care Act, but the Supreme Court ruled it should be left up to the states to decide.
Governor Herbert is now reviewing several full and partial expansion options.

He has said the right solution for Utah is likely a combination of the five recommendations made by a task force.

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