Proposed Cuts Could Hurt Medicaid Recipients

Proposed Cuts Could Hurt Medicaid Recipients

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Richard Piatt ReportingDeep cuts to programs that help poor people in Utah could be coming, and the threat scares some people. President Bush has proposed cuts to Medicaid, Housing, food stamps, education, and Veterans benefits, starting next year. And it may be impossible for the state of Utah to pick up the slack.

The Ponselo's are poor, but thankful. Both are on medicaid. Both will benefit from funding the Legislature restored for vision and dental programs this year. Next year is a different story.

Joy Ponselo, Medicaid Recipient: “It scares me to death. Every time I hear Medicaid cuts, I think, ‘Is this my husband’s last month to live?’”

That's because other programs the Ponselos rely on might be on the chopping block. Part of the President's proposed budget, and one both the House and Senate approved by resolution, cut programs for the poor significantly. To Medicaid alone, the cuts could top 45-billion dollars over the next ten years. Utah's share of that money could total 253 million dollars.

Advocates for the poor, including Catholics from around the nation, call this a moral issue.

Dee Rowland, Catholic Diocese of Utah: “By where we put our financial resources, we're making a statement about where our values are."

In Washington the cuts are about eliminating waste and cracking down on fraud. But Utah and other states see the cuts as political slight of hand.

Jeff Fox, Utah Issues: "They're going to shift that burden to the state legislators. And of course, the state legislators are not going to want to deliver the bad news, too."

In fact, House Speaker Greg Curtis says a fight is underway on the issue. Raising taxes to cover the rising costs are a very remote, unattractive option.

Rep. Greg Curtis, Utah House Speaker: "What the federal government does is they mandate certain action, certain programs, but then they don't fund it. And that's where my frustration comes in."

There's plenty of frustration to go around on this issue. The President wants to keep his tax cuts; at the same time needs are growing. And people who live month to month are caught in the middle.

Advocates for the poor are lobbying Senators Hatch and Bennett to support an amendment that removes the Medicaid cuts from the Senate budget resolution and calls for a deep study of Medicaid reform.

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