Idaho awaits feds’ word on Medicaid expansion plan

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LEWISTON (AP) — The federal government could decide by the end of May whether it will accept Idaho’s voter-approved plan to expand Medicaid eligibility.

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Deputy Director Lisa Hettinger said the amended state plan was submitted to the federal centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in February, The Lewiston Tribune reported Wednesday. Federal officials have 90 days to make a decision regarding the amendment, or to provide a list of questions that need to be answered before they can act.

That clock started once the plan was received, she said, so “we should hear something no later than the end of (May).”

There have been some informal communications with federal officials since February, Hettinger said. At this point, she doesn’t foresee any major hiccups.

“Nothing is routine when you’re dealing with Medicaid, but this is a fairly straightforward plan amendment,” she said. “I don’t anticipate any challenges.”

Voters approved the expansion last fall, directing the Legislature to expand Medicaid eligibility to all adult Idaho residents earning less than 138% of the federal poverty level. If it is approved by the federal government, people can start signing up for the program Nov. 1 for coverage that will start in 2020.

Earlier this year, lawmakers imposed a number of restrictions on the expansion, including a 20-hour-per-week work requirement. Those restrictions are part of a separate waiver request that will likely be sent to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sometime between July and September, Hettinger said.

The waiver applications will also have to go through a public comment period lasting at least 30 days at both the state and federal levels. The final decision from the federal agency could come much later.

“There’s no clock for a waiver application decision,” Hettinger said. “At some point they do need to respond, but there’s no federal rule defining when that will be.”

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