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New Eligibility Requirements Bog Down Small Medicaid Expansion In Utah


On Monday members of the public criticized parts of the Utah Department of Health’s plan to narrowly expand Medicaid in the state. 

Since last summer representatives from the Department of Health have been trying to expand low-income health coverage to about 6,000 people. Specifically, it would cover adults without children who are chronically homeless or need mental health or drug treatment. 

To get coverage for those people the health department is applying to the federal government. Nate Checketts is deputy director of the Utah Department of Health.  He says the state is updating its requirements for the people who would be covered. They’re using past Medicaid proposals as a guide. 

"It comes from the legislature itself, it comes from the Governor’s office, you know if you look at the Healthy Utah proposal and interest in a work requirement at that time," Checketts says. 

The rules for the new expansion group would include work requirements or job training programs for people who receive healthcare, a five-year limit for people on Medicaid, and eliminating the usual three-month retroactive coverage people get when they sign up for Medicaid. 

The Reverend Kim James is the Pastor of First United Methodist Church in Ogden. She has a son with a mental illness and says it’s unlikely people like him will be able to comply with the new requirements.

"More than likely these persons, when they need healthcare, they’re gonna show up some place out of the blue, with no documentation, with no records," James says. 

Shawn McMillen is the executive director of First Step House, which treats people with substance use disorder. He worries individuals will relapse and lose coverage because of the new requirements.

"So I’m very concerned about the impact of the nature of substance use disorder on an individual’s ability to maintain their coverage," McMillen says.  

Additional comments about the Medicaid expansion can be submitted on the Utah Department of Health website until July 20th.

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