The tax initiatives would be devastating to the health of the people of Utah, the executive director of the Utah Department of Health said Friday.
Lifesaving programs such as financing of liver transplants for children, newborn intensive care and air quality control would be eliminated, said Dr. Suzanne Dandoy.Speaking to the Utah Advisory Council on Intergovernmental Affairs, Dandoy outlined in detail the potential harmful effects of the tax initiatives. Her list was based on the assumption that the health department would have to reduce its expenditures of state money by about 10 percent.
"If the actual effect of the initiatives were to be higher, additional programs would be reduced," said Dandoy, who explained that much of the state general fund money is used to match federal dollars. In other words, the state is required to provide a certain amount of money before the federal dollars can be received.
"While the overall budget for the Utah Department of Health is $280 million in fiscal 1988-89, only $67 million of that money is from state general funds," she said. "The remainder comes primarily from the federal government, with additional amounts from fees and contracts with other agencies.
"Therefore, any loss in state funds is compounded by a related loss in federal dollars," Dandoy said. "In the case of the Medicaid program, every dollar contributed by the state for medical-care payments is matched by $3 from the federal government. Thus, every decrease in one state dollar in that program will result in the loss of $3 from the federal government."
If the tax initiatives are passed, Dandoy said, the Medically Needy program, which serves about 10,000 Utahns annually, would be eliminated. The program pays the bills for catastrophic medical expenses, such as liver transplants for children and the care of newborns in intensive-care units.
"The result would be to shift the cost of this care back to the families, who are usually low income, employed but without adequate health insurance," she said.
The Utah Medical Assistance program would also be eliminated. It serves about 6,000 people who are not eligible for any other type of financial assistance for medical care and have life-threatening or acute illnesses. "Many of these persons would fail to receive needed care if this program were not available," Dandoy said.
The cuts wouldn't stop there.
The executive director said the Perinatal Program that provides prenatal and infant care for low-income women and their babies would be reduced. The air- quality program or the radiation-control program would be eliminated.
Simply put, that means there would be no state activity in the monitoring or remediation of air-pollution problems or monitoring radiation sources.
Dandoy said passage of the tax initiatives could also mean elimination of the Smoke Free Utah Program, the cancer-screening program, and the state's contribution to the Utah Cancer Registry, one of the programs that helps in early identification of cancer.
There would also be some increases.
Dandoy said immunization fees would be increased to offset the loss of state money to purchase vaccines.
"This may decrease the number of children immunized against preventable diseases, such as whooping cough, tetanus, measles and polio, thereby increasing the numbers of cases of these diseases in the state," the director said.