Utah still waiting for first Medicaid waiver from Trump administration ahead of April 1 deadline

Utah Capitol 31

Monday is the April 1 deadline for the Trump administration to give Utah a waiver so 12,000 or more low-income folks can be moved over from a subsidized private health insurance plan to the state’s “expanded” Medicaid program.

But the state legislator most involved in the issue, Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, tells UtahPolicy.com that as of Thursday afternoon no such waiver has been given.

“We still hope to have the waiver by (Monday),” Dunnigan said.

But if it doesn’t come by then, Utahns on the current Primary Care Network will NOT be moved over to Medicaid, he added. And will stay on their current subsidized health insurance program.

You can read a Salt Lake Tribune story explaining the Republican legislators’ new Medicaid expansion bill here.

For months the state has been preparing for the April 1 deadline – set in Prop 3, the Medicaid full expansion initiative petition passed by voters last November.

When Republicans in the Legislature, and GOP Gov. Gary Herbert, decided early in the 2019 Legislature to rewrite that petition – putting in a work requirement for healthy recipients and a 90-10 federal/state funding match, along with other things – GOP leaders promised that come

April 1 of this year Medicaid expansion would be started, just as it would have under a full Medicaid expansion in Prop 3.

But Dunnigan said Thursday that until that federal waiver comes – and he has every reason to expect it will – the change-over won’t take place.

Dunnigan reminds Utahns that on a previous federal waiver deadline, the approval came the very day of the deadline – and he expects the April 1 waiver will be met or come soon after. But until Utah gets it, the low-income Utahns on the PCN won’t be moved over – even though all of the “backend work” of setting up the switch by the state has been done, he added.

“We are talking daily” with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, part of the Department of Health and Human Services in the federal government.

Other states are also asking for waivers – many like Utah asking for multiple Medicaid waivers at the same time.

Of course, proponents of Prop 3 warned during the 2019 Legislature’s work on Medicaid expansion that this could happen – that for whatever reason the Trump administration wouldn’t give the waiver.

Dunnigan has previously been quoted in UtahPolicy saying that the CMS was planning on setting up a “broad waiver” that meets Utah’s needs, but which could be provided to other states at the same time, or near to the April 1 Utah deadline.

So far, that has not happened.

When Utah’s Medicaid expansion program does get going – and Dunnigan says he has full faith that it will, maybe not just on April 1 – then over time upwards of 70,000 lower-income Utahns will get Medicaid expansion.

Currently, there are tens of thousands of low-income children who qualify for Medicaid and/or CHIP – the federal Children’s Health Insurance Plan – but for various reasons are not signed up for it.

It’s hoped, said Dunnigan, that as word of Medicaid expansion moves through various Utah outreach programs, low-income folks and their children will start being signed up.

Utah state government asked for the 90-10 split waiver last July, as part of the Legislature’s old, much-less-expansive Medicaid law that would have covered only a few thousand Utahns.

So parts of the current waiver request have been before Trump officials for some time.

Part of the rewriting of Prop 3 by lawmakers has a provision that should Utah NOT get needed waivers, then in a year or so the normal full Medicaid expansion under Prop 3 – which is part of Obamacare – will take effect.

But GOP lawmakers don’t want that to happen, claiming the state couldn’t afford such unknown costs to taxpayers without cutting back other General Fund state programs and/or having a tax increase to pay for it all.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking toward Monday.