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Why Some Utahns are Having Trouble Signing up for Medicaid

More than 4000 Utahns have been stalled in their efforts to get health insurance because federal and state computer systems are not yet able to communicate.  Officials from the state Department of Workforce Services say Utah was ready when the exchange went online October 1st, but the federal system was not.

In an ideal world, those who qualify for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program would apply through the Department of Workforce Services. All other individuals would apply for health insurance through the federal exchange. But many people don’t know what they qualify for until they go through the process. If someone goes to the wrong place, the state or the federal system should be able to pass that application on to the proper place. Workforce Services spokesperson Nic Dunn says that’s not happening.

“It’s just an issue of the computer systems not talking to each other,” Dunn says. “The programs have not been set up yet to talk to each other. Ours is; Utah was ready on day one. We’re just waiting on the federal system to get its side ready to talk to our programs.”

To date, Dunn says about 3300 Utahns who applied on the federal exchange were eligible for Medicaid, but the feds have not been able to send those applications to the state. Meanwhile, 750 Utahns who applied for Medicaid were told that they do not qualify, but the state was not able to send their applications to the federal exchange. A spokesperson from the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services confirmed that the federal government does not yet have capability to automatically pass applications to or from states. But they are currently scheduling appointments with states to send full account files for those eligible for Medicaid. No word yet on when the state and federal systems will be communicating as intended.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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