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The Utah Department of Health now is accepting public comments on a draft plan to expand Medicaid to 16,000 of the poorest Utahns.

This small-scale Medicaid expansion, which targets the chronically homeless, mentally ill and those recently released from prison, takes effect Tuesday. However, the department doesn't expect to begin enrolling individuals until Jan. 1.

The state's plan for expansion must be approved by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services before it is implemented.

The department plans to submit the waiver by July 1, but is accepting public comment on the draft first. The proposal can be found at Members of the public can submit comments online, by email at or at three public hearings this month. Those hearings are:

May 19 • 1:30-3:30 p.m., at 288 N. 1460 West in Salt Lake City

May 25 • 1-3 p.m., at 288 N. 1460 West in Salt Lake City

May 31 • 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 655 E. 1300 North in Logan

Bill Tibbitts, associate director of Crossroads Urban Center, said he would rather have had people getting benefits by July 1, but that "this is probably as fast as it gets" because of requirements.

The expansion will help an estimated 12,500 childless adults who have not been eligible for Medicaid, plus an additional 3,800 adults with children.

Adults with children had been covered only if they had incomes up to about 40 percent of the poverty level, but the new law will increase that to about 55 percent.

The department will be accepting applications through June 8.