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Eye Care for Utah Poor Stalled Over Co-payment

Eye Care for Utah Poor Stalled Over Co-payment



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The federal government rejected Utah's plan to restore eye care for Medicaid recipients because it required a $10 payment.

High-ranking lawmakers have told Utah's Medicaid chief that nothing can happen until the Legislature changes the law early in 2008.

"The statute does say what it says," Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, said. "We have to get back into session to change the statute."

Medicaid is a federal-state insurance program used by the poor, disabled and elderly. The Legislature had agreed to spend $174,000 and restore vision benefits that were cut in 2003.

The 60,000 beneficiaries would be required to pay $10. The federal government stepped in, however, and said the charge can't exceed $3.

"There was some confusion about this," state Medicaid director Michael Hales said. "You know how the last week of the session goes."

Bill Tibbitts, who is watching the issue as director of the Anti-Hunger Action Committee, believes Utah still could act without a new law.

"The governor should be able to authorize health officials to proceed as close to the spirit of the intent language as possible," he said. "Otherwise you'd need to have a special session every time the anticipated price for purchasing land for a road or certain building supplies changed in some way."

Tibbitts fears it could be another year before vision benefits are restored because federal officials will need to see the new plan.

Gov. Jon Huntsman's legal advisers believe the state can't act without the Legislature's OK, spokeswoman Lisa Roskelley said.

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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