The Utah Health Care Association, an organization representing 86 long-term care facilities statewide and their more than 6,000 ill and infirm patients, Saturday announced opposition to the proposed tax initiatives.

The cuts, officials said, go too far, and the "mess" Utahns would have to live with if the initiatives pass would be overwhelming.The Utah Medical Association, Utah Department of Health and most county health departments have taken the same position.

The Job Training Coordination Council and the American Association of Retired Persons on Saturday joined the battle against the trio of tax initiatives, as well. The groups' contention is that the initiatives would throw thousands out of work and harm the poor and elderly.

According to projections by health-care authorities, programs for Utah's medically needy, including the elderly, could be eliminated or seriously affected by Medicaid cuts. The Department of Healthcare Financing has projected that 2,400 nursing-home residents could lose Medicaid coverage if these measures pass.

"These initiatives could mean that more than 60,000 citizens of this state would not receive necessary, even minimal health-care services," said Dennis N. McFall, association executive vice president.

"We are talking about very ill patients - many without family. Residents with Alzheimer's disease, ventilator-dependent children, people in comas - these are often the patients in our facilities, and they are the ones who need Medicaid assistance the most," he said.

"The long-term care facility is the only place that can provide the health services they need short of acute-care hospitalization, and often existing regulations prohibit them from receiving care in the acute hospital."

McFall emphasized that "tax reformers" who contend the initiatives will only eliminate existing government excess and not affect other programs, are way off base.

"If passed, the initiatives would make it absolutely impossible for health programs to continue at their present level, which is already inadequate," he said. "Budgets have already been slashed to the point that thousands of citizens who need care are denied it. Voters need to know what they may be endorsing. These initiatives could have a devastating impact."

McFall also criticized the tax-reform movement for "unfairly exaggerating the picture of government inefficiency."

"The employees at the Department of Health, the Department of Social Services, and those in the legislative analyst's office with whom I have worked over the past 21 years have been dedicated, hard-working people," he said. "I think we, the public, do not really understand the structural organization of our government.

"What we perceive as duplication is often our system of checks and balances. And, considering the laws and regulations under which government must operate, and the size and scope of government itself, I think most people would be surprised at how efficiently our system does work," he said.

"Tax relief, even a temporary one which this program would prove to be, is appealing to everyone. But, believe me, the mess we will all live with later will be overwhelming. These cuts simply go too far."

McFall urged voters to carefully research and analyze the impact of the initiatives on not only health care, but education, police and fire protection and other related services before voting Nov. 8.

"The so-called tax-reform movement and the pro-initiative people have said those of us responsibly opposing them are using `scare tactics,' " McFall said. "Scare tactics, no. Legitimate fear and concern over the passage of the tax initiatives, absolutely."