Some Utah Health Providers Raise Concern Over Law Requiring Verification of Legal Status for Certain Government-Funded Services
Some health care providers in Utah have raised concerns about the effects of a new law (SB 81), set to take effect July 1, requiring agencies to verify patients' legal status before providing certain government-funded health services, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. The new law excludes emergency care, vaccines, and testing and treatment of communicable diseases. Patients who lie about their status in order to receive care could face criminal penalties.
Some health officials are unsure which services the law will affect and are waiting for guidance from the Attorney General's office, according to the Tribune. In addition, some public health officials and groups that provide care using government funds do not know how to implement the law, the Tribune reports. Supporters believe the law will not affect services for children and say that it is necessary to curb health care spending and address the flow of undocumented workers to the state.
State officials have alerted some organizations that receive state-funded primary care grants about the new law, which could affect up to 49 agencies that received $1.6 million in grants in 2008 to provide mental health services, diabetes and dental care and other services.
Judy Sobin -- executive director of the People's Health Clinic, which uses state funds to provide health services to uninsured adults working in the construction, restaurant and lodging industries in Summit and Wasatch counties -- said she believes that the law likely will prevent even documented immigrants from seeking care because of fear that it could affect their undocumented family members. Bruce Costa, executive director of the Central Utah Public Health Department, said he is concerned that many undocumented immigrants will forgo vaccines for their children even though the law does not apply to immunizations. Some undocumented immigrants are expected to turn to more costly emergency department care, which by federal law has to treat all patients, according to the Tribune (May, Salt Lake Tribune, 4/19).