After weeks of waiting, thousands of Utahns will find out if they qualify for Medicaid. Confusion and technical difficulties with the federal exchange website healthcare.gov have left some Utahns’ applications in limbo.
It was supposed to be a seamless process. If healthcare.gov found that an applicant may be eligible for Medicaid, the federal website was supposed to automatically feed that information to a state database, but that’s not how things happened. About 24,000 Utahns who applied for insurance on healthcare.gov were told they may be eligible for Medicaid, but according to spokesperson for the state Department of Workforce Services Nic Dunn, Utah was not receiving those applications as intended. It wasn’t until mid-December, that the federal government was able to send spreadsheets of data on those assessed eligible for Medicaid. Now, Dunn says, the state is doing manual data entry to process these applications, one by one.
“These people have been waiting long enough for some kind of decision about what they’re eligible for, and the state wasn’t able to do anything because of the federal exchange delays and the imperfect information we were getting,” Dunn says. “We know there was some frustration there because people didn’t know what their status was. That uncertainty is what - here at the state level – we’re now working to fix.”
Dunn says the state is on track to process the first round of applications – about 12,000 of them - in the next week. It’s not clear, though, if all of those people will actually qualify for Medicaid. Because Utah has not decided whether to expand the program, Dunn says there is some uncertainty how the federal government will handle those low-income people who are not eligible for subsidies, but may not be eligible for Medicaid in Utah at this time.
“We won’t have a full picture of exactly how the federal exchange is assessing eligibility for these people until we’re able to work through more of these applications,” Dunn says.
In the meantime, the federal government is still testing the automatic interface with the state, and Dunn says Utah will switch to that process when it’s ready.