Salt Lake County faces a budget shortfall and service cuts if the state doesn’t accept Medicaid funds from the federal government. The County Council will draft a letter at their meeting Tuesday urging state lawmakers to support the Governor’s Healthy Utah Plan, and to do it this summer before the County has to complete its budget.
Democratic Salt Lake County Councilor Sam Granato was hoping the legislature would have made a decision by now on whether Utah should accept Medicaid funds to provide health coverage for more than 110,000 low-income Utahns.
“I was disappointed when the legislature didn’t handle it during the regular session,” Granato says. “We were told there would be a special session, and now we’re all hearing that there will not be a special session.”
Granato says the county has to complete the 2015 budget within the next couple months, they’re facing a shortfall, and they still don’t know if they can count on new federal funding.
“We’re in jeopardy with our budget,” Granato says. “We have 50,000 people in Salt Lake County that are going to fall right through the cracks.”
Granato says he supports the governor’s Healthy Utah Plan, which would use Medicaid dollars to help low-income citizens buy insurance on the private market. Salt Lake County Human Services Director Lori Bays says local taxes can no longer cover the demand for behavioral health services, and her department is counting on the governor’s plan to get out of a difficult budget situation.
“If we don’t have the Healthy Utah Plan adopted this year, we’re actually going to be looking at about a 12 percent cut to our substance use disorders services in 2015,” Bays says. “It’s a major concern for us, and a major concern for our community that depends on us.”
While the county waits to see what state lawmakers will do, Bays says long waitlists for substance abuse services are just going to get longer, and as many as 2000 citizens may lose services all together. She says it’s looking more and more likely that the county will not be able to count on Medicaid dollars coming back to Utah by January 2015.