Utah proposes new cap on Medicaid spending

Utah proposes new cap on Medicaid spending
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Utah's Republican governor on Friday unveiled a Medicaid overhaul proposal that would cap how much the federal government spends on each recipient, a long-held conservative goal, setting up a test for the Trump administration on whether to approve the change.

At the same time, Utah is seeking to bring in more federal funding for a partial expansion of Medicaid.

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The proposal from Gov. Gary Herbert must be approved by the Trump administration for it to go into effect. Democrats are sure to sharply criticize the administration if it approves a cap on Medicaid spending, a key element of the GOP ObamaCare repeal and replacement proposals in 2017.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has said the administration is in talks with states about approving caps on Medicaid spending without congressional approval.

Supporters argue that the caps help rein in unsustainable government spending.

Utah’s proposal comes after the state’s voters last year approved expanding Medicaid under ObamaCare. But the GOP legislature and governor rolled back that expansion earlier this year, limiting eligibility to people with incomes up to 100 percent of the federal poverty limit, instead of up to 138 percent as it is under ObamaCare.

Whether to approve that “partial” Medicaid expansion is another test for the Trump administration. The idea is opposed both by some conservatives who think any Medicaid expansion is harmful, and by Democrats who say the state should accept the full expansion.

Nate Checketts, Utah’s Medicaid director, said he hoped the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) would approve the proposal soon.

“We hope CMS will act on our request in a timely manner so we can implement the new elements of the program later this year or early next year,” he said in a statement.