Utah Law Requiring Verification of Legal Status for Certain Government-Funded Services Will Not Affect Health Services as Expected, Official Says
A new Utah law (SB 81) set to take effect July 1 that requires government agencies to verify residents' legal status before providing certain government-funded services will not affect health care services, Assistant Attorney General Doug Springmeyer said on Monday, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. Health care providers were concerned that the new law would curtail health services provided to immigrants; however, Springmeyer said that only two state health-related benefits -- child care and emergency medical service licenses -- would require proof of residency.
Springmeyer said Health Department officials erroneously informed agencies that accept primary care grants that they would have to verify their patients' legal status. The law only applies to state and local agencies, not their grantees, he said. According to Springmeyer, state and local government agencies can continue to provide services such as cancer screenings; prenatal advice; nutritional programs, including the federally funded Women, Infant and Children's program; medical and dental visits; and treatment for communicable diseases without requesting proof of citizenship.
"One of the messages public health wants to make sure is well-known in the community is they should feel free to come and seek that kind of care without any fear their citizenship status will have any bearing whatsoever," Springmeyer said. Judy Sobin -- executive director of the People's Health Clinic, which uses state funding to provide health care to uninsured adults working in the construction, restaurant and lodging industries in Summit and Wasatch counties, some of whom are likely undocumented -- said, "We're going to try to get the word out to our community they should feel very comfortable coming in for health care" (May, Salt Lake Tribune, 5/7).