NC Budget and Tax Center

Trump administration rejects Utah’s bid for more federal funds for “partial” Medicaid expansion

Late last week, White House officials stated that they would not approve enhanced federal funding for Utah’s partial Medicaid expansion, according to news reports, raising questions about the viability of the plan given the significant cost to the state.

This follows an earlier decision from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that gave approval for Utah’s waiver request to expand Medicaid only up to 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act permits states to expand up to 138 percent FPL in exchange for the federal government paying 90 percent of the cost of services for those who gain new coverage, up from the current 68 percent match rate in Utah.

It turns out that Medicaid expansion up to the 138 percent level is not only best able to maximize the health and economic benefits to states, it also is the most (and only) fiscally responsible option for state policymakers.

Utah is the first state to submit a waiver for partial expansion without already having expanded Medicaid and, given the absence of additional federal funds to do so, it would seem fiscally unwise that a state would take up this option moving forward.

Wisconsin is the only state to extend coverage up to 100 percent FPL, absent Medicaid expansion, and does not receive the enhanced federal match. In fact, Utah’s funding rejection follows in the footsteps of other states, who both sought to lower their income eligibility requirements for Medicaid.

Partial Medicaid expansion is one of several mechanisms by which states have tried to restrict eligibility and coverage while expecting the federal government to provide additional financial support.

It not only compromises the integrity of Affordable Care Act, which created the option for states to expand Medicaid in the first place, but blocks the possibilities for greater health from being realized through state action.

Suzy Khachaturyan is a Policy Analyst at the Budget and Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.

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