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Legislative Task Force Looks to Plug Holes in Medicaid Funds

Legislative Task Force Looks to Plug Holes in Medicaid Funds


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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- As a legislative Medicaid task force looks for ways to plug holes from federal Medicaid cuts, officials from the state's departments of Health, Human Services, Workforce Services and Vocational Rehabilitation listed more than 190 programs that could be targets for the legislators.

The task force is particularly interested in a few dozen programs that cost $400 million a year and consume about a quarter of the state's $1.6 billion Medicaid budget.

Health director David Sundwall recently pleaded with the task force to "hold harmless" about 106 public health programs that he oversees, few of which are funded by Medicaid.

Most involve monitoring and prevention of communicable and chronic diseases, such as bird flu, cancer and HIV-AIDS. Other campaigns stress the importance of childhood immunizations and prenatal care.

These efforts keep Utahns healthy, translating to fewer trips to the doctor and a savings for the state's Medicaid program, Sundwall argued.

"I hope we're not going to shore up Medicaid by taking away from these," Sundwall said.

However, Sen. Sheldon Killpack, R-Syracuse and co-chairman of the task force, said, "Everything is on the table."

The task force was created last winter after a federal budget-cutting bill that targeted $20.6 million of Human Services director Lisa Michelle-Church's budget.

Medical and mental health treatment programs for delinquent youths and children in foster care bore the brunt of the impact.

The Legislature plugged some holes with state money, but at a cost to some programs, such as deciding to cancel dental and vision care for adults on Medicaid. Private donors have stepped up to fund that program for the time being.

Church said earlier this year, "There are no easy decisions. I have some programs that are completely state-funded with no federal match. So do we focus on cutting those and use the general fund to leverage federal money?

"I also have money going to local counties. Do we cut those rather than statewide programs?" she asked.

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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