On Wednesday, October 20, 2021, a group of state legislators and members of the Coalition of Religious Communities will meet in Room 4112 of the State Office Building at the Utah Capitol Complex and attempt to complete Utah’s application for Medicaid, SNAP and other programs in fifteen minutes or less. Utah’s current application has 89 questions plus attachments with an additional twenty questions.
Coalition of Religious Communities members have heard from multiple sources that completing this application often takes more than two hours. The length and complexity of the application creates a barrier to participating in programs like Medicaid and SNAP. It also makes it much harder for faith leaders and charitable organizations to assist people in applying for services without major increases in paid staff. This may help explain why thousands of uninsured Utahns have still not enrolled in Medicaid despite full expansion having begun in our state on January 1, 2020.
Utah’s application for Medicaid, SNAP and other programs has not always been this long. In 2003, Utah’s application for the same programs was shortened from 50 questions to thirteen questions. In 2010 the application had 25 questions– 67 less questions than are found on the current application.
State officials have stated that after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act federal officials required Utah add the questions on the current application. However, if there is a federal mandate to have a long and complicate application it is not being enforced evenly nationwide. A recent analysis of the SNAP portion of state applications shows that other states have up to 80 percent less questions related to SNAP than can be found on Utah’s application. Oregon’s application for SNAP, Medicaid and many other services has over forty less questions than the one used in Utah.
The application is only the first step on a much longer eligibility process that includes an interview and the production of documents to prove things like household size, income and expenses. Questions asked on the current application are duplicative of steps that will be required later in the application process. Event organizers believe a simpler application would remove a major barrier to participation in Medicaid and other programs without reducing the quality of the final eligibility determination.