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Utah suspends Medicaid work requirements because of COVID-19 pandemic

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Posted at 6:29 PM, Apr 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-03 19:50:14-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The state of Utah has suspended work requirements for Medicaid, FOX 13 has confirmed.

A spokesperson for Utah's Department of Health said the self-sufficiency requirement for Medicaid would be waived in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, effective immediately. The agency is using "good cause" as the reason for waiving the work requirements.

Utah is anticipating an increased number of people seeking Medicaid assistance as unemployment grows in the pandemic. An increasing number of businesses are closing or laying off workers, and Utah's Department of Workforce Services said more people have applied for unemployment benefits in the past two weeks than in all of 2019.

"We want all Utahns to stay safe and stay at home as much as possible. Temporarily waiving the community engagement requirement for those on Medicaid allows them to follow state directives issued to help slow the spread of COVID-19," Governor Gary Herbert said in a statement to FOX 13 on Friday.

The news was welcomed by health care advocates who pushed for Medicaid expansion in the form of a 2018 ballot initiative. Voters approved a sales tax hike to implement full Medicaid expansion under Proposition 3. The Utah State Legislature rolled it back and implemented its own program. After waivers were rejected by the feds, the state was forced to implement full expansion -- with a work requirement.

The pandemic necessitated some changes.

"We're thrilled Utah did the right thing by suspending them now," said Stacy Stanford with the Utah Health Policy Project. "Getting access to health care is crucial at this moment. We should not have any barriers to care, especially during a pandemic. but we really shouldn't be building barriers to care ever. We hope they make this a permanent change."

Stanford urged Utahns impacted by the coronavirus to sign up for Medicaid. A provision of the federal relief packages includes no one being dis-enrolled from Medicaid during the pandemic.