Lawmakers provided information about the current status of Medicaid expansion and the legalization of medical marijuana in the state during a town hall meeting at the Historic Cache County Courthouse on Thursday evening.
The meeting was hosted by Cache County’s state delegation. Speakers included Micheal Curtis, a drafting attorney for the legislature; Bear River Health Department Director Lloyd Berentzen; Ed Redd, a former legislator and a member of the state Compassionate Use Board for marijuana; and Rep. Jim Dunnagan, who sponsored the Medicaid expansion legislation.
“I have the pleasure of working with all four of these gentlemen on state or local issues and they are very dedicated to public service,” said Rep. Val Potter.
During the meeting, speakers outlined the implementation challenges in the legislation on each issue, some logistical and some legal.
For medical marijuana, the challenges include whether or not local health departments can dispense the product. For Medicaid, many of the challenges related to decisions the Federal government has or has not made on what the state can do.
Karina Brown, one of the sponsors of Proposition 3 and the former Democratic candidate for Utah House District 5, attended the meeting on Thursday and asked if the state had a plan to ensure the most vulnerable populations in the state could still be insured if the Affordable Care Act was ruled unconstitutional as a result of a lawsuit Utah and 18 other states are a part of.
“I agree with you that we need to have something in place,” Dunnagan said. “We have talked a little about it, but there is so much in flux right now and we still have quite a period of time.”
Brown said she has mixed feelings about how Medicaid expansion has been going so far in Utah.
She said she is happy that the number of Utahns who qualify for Medicaid has dramatically increased but she is disappointed that the legislation only covers people up to 100 percent of the poverty level, rather than the 138 percent of the poverty level that Proposition 3 originally covered.
Moving forward, Brown said she wants to make sure lawmakers are mindful of the costs of health care that may still make it difficult for people who qualify to buy plans on the market place to go to the doctor.
“I honestly do feel we have a lot to celebrate, but we do still have to work,” Brown said.