Utah won’t get enhanced funding for partial Medicaid boost

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — President Donald Trump’s administration has rejected Utah’s planned request for enhanced federal funding for partial expansion of its Medicaid program, state officials said Saturday.

A statement released Saturday by Gov. Gary Herbert, Senate President Stuart Adams and House Speaker Brad Wilson, all Republicans, said the White House told Utah officials late Friday that the state’s waiver request awaiting formal submission wouldn’t be approved.

The statement expressed disappointment but said the move doesn’t change the state’s April expansion of Medicaid coverage to additional low-income residents.

Instead, the administration’s position dealt with the state’s desire for the federal government to cover a larger share of the costs although Utah’s planned expansion wouldn’t extend eligibility to as many people as would the federal care overhaul.

Utah lawmakers earlier this year voters scaled back the Medicaid expansion approved by voters in November.

The Trump administration has said it supports repeal and replacement of the entire Affordable Care Act and is asking federal courts to declaw the Obama-era law declared unconstitutional.

A statement released Saturday by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the administration supports states’ efforts “to design innovative Medicaid demonstrations that improve outcomes and promote fiscal sustainability” but that providing enhanced federal funding “would invite continued reliance on a broken and unsustainable ‘Obamacare’ system.”

Utah lawmakers angered expansion advocates by reducing how many people would be covered. Lawmakers also added spending caps and work requirements.

Stacy Stanford, a Utah Health Policy Project analyst and a Medicaid expansion advocate, said Saturday on Twitter that advocates were planning an event Thursday to call on elected officials to implement full expansion of the state’s Medicaid program.

No other state has gotten federal approval to receive the increased federal money without fully expanding Medicaid, and the statement issued Saturday by Herbert and the legislative leaders said they had “contemplated scenarios like this one.”

The Utah officials’ joint statement said the state’s Medicaid expansion legislation “ensures the program moves forward as we navigate the complicated federal rules and regulations involved in Medicaid. “

“We will continue to work closely with the Administration to ensure that Medicaid expansion is carried out in a way that provides coverage for Utahns in need without creating an unsustainable financial burden on Utah taxpayers,” the officials’ statement added.

State Sen. Allen Christensen, a North Ogden Republican who sponsored the GOP-led Legislature’s rewrite of the voter-approved expansion law, said he still hoped that portions of Utah’s waiver could be approved, but he acknowledged that a fallback provision in his bill could be triggered, meaning an expansion similar to the ballot measure would take effect.

“We probably have to implement the thing,” Christensen told the Salt Lake Tribune .

Stanford said the fallback provision addresses concerns about expansion costs.”We absolutely can afford it, and we can’t afford not to,” she said.

The Utah plan would expand low-income health coverage to some residents who earn up to 100% of the poverty level — about $12,490 for an individual or $25,750 for a family of four.

Utah’s partial expansion is expected to cover up to 90,000 people. The voter-approved law would have expanded coverage to some 150,000 people making less than about $17,200.

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