Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Medicaid Enrollment Approaches As Utah Waits For Federal Approval

Photo of medicaid form. / jwblinn

Enrollment for Utah’s long-awaited Medicaid expansion starts in less than two weeks. State officials are optimistic that things will go smoothly but they’re still waiting for approval of their plan from the federal government.

On April 1, 70-90,000 Utahns will be eligible for low-income Medicaid health insurance for the first time. But the plan approved by the state legislature looks somewhat different from Proposition 3, which voters passed last November.

“I think there’s generally a lot of confusion still about what we ended up with after Prop 3 was replaced,” said Randal Serr, with the Utah Health Policy Project. His group is doing outreach at United Way, homeless service providers and community health centers around the state so that providers know what’s available and what people are eligible for.

The current Medicaid law is contingent on several federal waiver approvals, Medicaid eligibility is capped at 100 percent of the federal poverty level, rather than 138 percent, and an initial “bridge plan” will be put in place before the state can get to the state-federal cost-sharing plan outlined during the legislative session.

State agencies often advertise when people can enroll for insurance, but that hasn’t happened yet for Medicaid expansion. That’s because with less than two weeks to go, the Utah plan still requires the federal government approve a Medicaid waiver to change the program.

“Staff here at the Health Department, even up to the Governor’s office level, are having regular conversations with individuals from CMS [Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services] and individuals from HHS [Health and Human Services] at the federal level and there’s been no indication that there’s been any hiccups that we’re going to experience,” said Tom Hudachko, a spokesman for the Utah Department of Health.

Individuals who are eligible for the expanded Medicaid plan will apply for coverage at the Department of Workforce Services. The agency has been expanding and training new staff and updating its computer system for tens of thousands of new enrollees.

“If people don’t apply in April it doesn’t mean that they’re out of luck. They can still apply and be considered for coverage back to, up to three months retroactively,” said Dale Ownby, the division director for eligibility services at the Department of Workforce Services. Staff said Medicaid can be applied for at any time during the year with the possibility of retroactive coverage.

More information about Medicaid enrollment can be found on the state health department’s Medicaid website.

Erik Neumann is a radio producer and writer. A native of the Pacific Northwest, his work has appeared on public radio stations and in magazines along the West Coast. He received his Bachelor's Degree in geography from the University of Washington and a Master's in Journalism from UC Berkeley. Besides working at KUER, he enjoys being outside in just about every way possible.
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.