US rejection disappoints states eyeing Utah Medicaid plan

Jul 30, 2019, 5:45 AM
FILE - In this Jan. 28, 2019, file photo, Bonnie Bowman, a supporter of a voter-approved measure to...
FILE - In this Jan. 28, 2019, file photo, Bonnie Bowman, a supporter of a voter-approved measure to fully expand Medicaid, gathers with others during a rally at the Utah state Capitol, urging lawmakers not to change the law. 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, July 27. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

The decision is disappointing for leaders in conservative-leaning states who considered Utah’s plan a compromise approach, said Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, on Monday.

“A lot of states were clearly looking at this avenue as a potential kind of middle-of-the-road path,” he said.

Supporters of full Medicaid expansion, on the other hand, cheered the federal decision. In a twist, the Trump administration’s rejection could trigger a fallback provision in Utah expanding coverage to more people.

“It appears that the administration has made the right decision but for all the wrong reasons,” said Jessica Schubel with the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. “I would hope this decision is a wake-up call for Utah to move forward with full expansion rather than continue to debate alternatives.”

The state had asked to get more federal money under the Obama health care law while covering a smaller pool of people than it requires. GOP lawmakers argued the income-eligibility waiver was needed to keep costs from spiraling out of control.

More than a dozen states have declined to expand Medicaid, and cost is often cited as a concern.

Several states, though, are looking for a path forward. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp plans to seek waivers for a more-conservative expansion, including an income-eligibility waiver similar to Utah’s request.

In states like North Carolina and Kansas, Democratic governors have struggled to convince reluctant lawmakers to pass expansion plans, Salo said. In Oklahoma, there’s talk of a ballot initiative similar to the ones that passed last year in Idaho, Nebraska and Utah.

The Saturday decision would also appear to shut the door on previous income eligibility requests from Massachusetts and Arkansas, though state officials in Arkansas had not received official word as of Monday.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services explained the decision by saying that additional federal funding in Utah “would invite continued reliance on a broken and unsustainable ‘Obamacare’ system.”

The rejection came as the administration argues in a separate federal court case that the entire Obama health law should be overturned as unconstitutional. Expanding coverage for low-income patients in Utah under the umbrella of the Affordable Care Act would have undercut the White House argument that the entire law needs to go.

The decision doesn’t affect those already covered under the Medicaid program in Utah, where officials have rolled out a partial expansion by paying the standard 30% while the federal government pays the other 70%.

The waiver would have increased the federal share to 90% of the cost even as Utah covered at least 50,000 fewer people than required by the Obama health care law.

It wasn’t immediately clear Monday whether the state would continue to seek other waivers for other restrictions, like capping enrollment.

Meanwhile, patients are watching and waiting.

Cancer survivor Christie Sorensen, 28, isn’t strong enough to work full time, so she’s had to forgo tests, oxygen and drugs recommended by her doctors because she can’t afford them.

The total cost of private insurance is out of reach even with subsidies, but her $13,000 part-time income is too high to be eligible for Medicaid under the plan that was approved by Utah lawmakers. Even after it was rejected by the U.S. government, the future remains unclear.

“I’m not sure what more I can physically do other than wait and see how things play out,” she said.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories


Thousands of fraudulent nursing diplomas  were dispersed in Florida. (Canva)...
Associated Press via Miami Herald

Fake nursing diploma scheme in Florida; 25 arrested

The defendants each face up to 20 years in prison.
14 hours ago
Microsoft is cutting 10,000 workers, almost 5% of its workforce, in response to "macroeconomic cond...
MATT O'BRIEN, Associated Press

Job cuts in tech sector spread, Microsoft lays off 10,000

Microsoft said in a regulatory filing Wednesday that had just notified employees of the layoffs, some of which begin immediately.
16 days ago
exxon mobil sign pictured...

Study: Exxon Mobil accurately predicted warming since 1970s

Exxon said its understanding of climate change evolved over the years and that critics are misunderstanding its earlier research.
22 days ago
FILE - Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, stand on the roof of the...
The Associated Press

Brazil and Jan. 6 in US: Parallel attacks, but not identical

RIO DE JANIERO, Brazil — Enraged protesters broke into government buildings that are the very symbol of their country’s democracy. Driven by conspiracy theories about their candidate’s loss in the last election, they smashed windows, sifted through the desks of lawmakers and trashed the highest offices in the land in a rampage that lasted hours […]
24 days ago
President Joe Biden pictured...
ZEKE MILLER AP White House Correspondent

DOJ reviewing potentially classified docs at Biden center

Special counsel to the president Richard Sauber said “a small number of documents with classified markings” were discovered at the offices of the Penn Biden Center.
25 days ago
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 06: A poster advertising the launch of Prince Harry's memoir "Spare" is s...
Jill Lawless Associated Press

Prince Harry says explosive book is a bid to ‘own my story’

Prince Harry defended his decision to publish a memoir that lays bare rifts inside Britain’s royal family.
25 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
US rejection disappoints states eyeing Utah Medicaid plan