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19,200 Essential Workers in Utah At Risk from Potential Medicaid Cuts

Salt Lake City, UT – 19,200 Utah Medicaid enrollees working in essential frontline industries are among those at risk if federal policymakers fail to provide needed increases in Medicaid funding or weaken protections for program enrollees, according to a new analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. With the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic creating a growing need for Medicaid health coverage and a huge drop-off in state revenues, some states, including Utah, have cut Medicaid and other health programs. Additional cuts could follow unless federal policymakers provide a greater temporary increase in federal funds, and maintain strong protections for Medicaid enrollees. Among those at risk from Medicaid cuts are thousands of Utahns working as home health aides, grocery store workers, food production workers, or in other jobs that put them on the front lines of the pandemic. [About 12 percent of low-income essential workers in Utah get health coverage through Medicaid.] 

“The thousands of Utahns on the frontlines are making great sacrifices every time they go to work,” said Matt Slonaker, Executive Director at Utah Health Policy Project. “The least our Congressional representatives can do in return is ensure that the health coverage that so many frontline workers rely on stays intact.”  

With Congress and the Administration currently debating another COVID-19 response bill, the stakes are high for Medicaid. With states already proposing – and in some cases, making – cuts, time is of the essence. States can’t endure a lengthy wait for federal aid before they need to start cutting because the longer they delay, the fewer months they have in the fiscal year over which to spread the cuts. In past recessions, especially when federal aid was insufficient and strong beneficiary protections weren’t in place, many states cut Medicaid eligibility, made it harder for people to get or stay covered, dropped coverage of certain benefits, or cut payment rates for providers serving Medicaid enrollees.  

Unfortunately, the plan put forward last week by Senate Republicans does not include additional increases in the federal share of Medicaid costs (the federal medical assistance percentage, or FMAP), which are needed to prevent harmful cuts. It also fails to include any other new fiscal aid to states to help them make up for enormous revenue shortfalls, which is needed to prevent cuts to a wide range of public services, potentially including Medicaid and other health coverage. Equally troubling, Republicans may seek to weaken important maintenance of effort protections enacted in March, as they did during negotiations on the CARES Act in April. These protections prevent states from cutting Medicaid eligibility or taking away people’s coverage during the public health crisis.

To avoid harmful Medicaid cuts and protect coverage during the public health and economic crises, Utah Health Policy Project, and 15 of our partners, are calling on Congress to immediately start working on a new package that substantially increases the share of Medicaid costs paid by the federal government (the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage, or FMAP) – as the bipartisan National Governors Association has urged. This should include:

  • Providing a substantial additional FMAP increase, along the lines of the increase of 14 percentage point increase in the House-passed Heroes Act. 
  • Keeping higher FMAPs in place until the labor market and state budgets recover, but at least through June 30, 2021 (as in the House-passed Heroes Act). 
  • Continuing strong maintenance-of-effort (MOE) protections that prevent cuts to coverage.  

More information from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities about the HEALS Act and what is missing linked HERE.

To learn more, please visit: http://www.healthpolicyproject.org/covid-response-medicaid-matters/

About the Utah Health Policy Project:

Utah Health Policy Project (UHPP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advancing sustainable health care solutions for underserved Utahns through better access, education, and public policy.

Since 2006 UHPP has worked hard to develop solutions to create a health system that provides better access to higher quality health care at a lower cost. We pride ourselves on being an open resource for the public, community leaders, the media, businesses, health care providers, and policymakers.