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Rejection of Utah Medicaid Waiver a Cautionary Tale for Oklahoma


A recent Medicaid decision in Utah has implications for Oklahoma.

Utah lawmakers repealed voter-approved Medicaid expansion, which would have offered coverage to adults making up to 138% of the federal poverty level, and instead proposed extending coverage only to adults with incomes below the poverty line.

They were trying to secure the 90 percent match full expansion gets, but the Trump administration rejected Utah's waiver despite what was essentially a handshake agreement.

"Utah legislators spoke publicly about the fact they were relying on verbal assurances from senior Trump administration officials that they would approve this partial expansion with enhanced federal funding," said Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Senior Health Policy Analyst Hannah Katch.

Oklahoma Republican lawmakers had the same goal this year. They floated proposals to use enhanced Medicaid matching funds to expand a program subsidizing private insurance, and to let counties band together to pursue additional federal funds and potentially expand Medicaid.

"So, proposals like those Oklahoma was considering in the last legislative session to expand just a little bit but still ask for that additional federal funding, those are now off the table," Katch said.

The enhanced funding match is now only guaranteed through full Medicaid expansion, which would cover more than 100,000 uninsured Oklahomans.

"Expanding coverage is also extremely important for providers and hospitals to help them keep their doors open, especially in rural communities where hospitals are often an essential economic driver and source of jobs," Katch said.

While the legislature did not pass any Medicaid bills, voters are pursing a full expansion ballot measure.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.