5 Things Utah: Medicaid budget cuts, Greg Skordas, “5 Slides”

Next week, members of our Convening Panel will get together on a Zoom call. You may recall we postponed our April 2nd event, the 2020 Utah State of Reform Health Policy Conference, just as COVID was breaking. As things begin to re-open, my inclination is to not re-convene our event in person, but rather to put together a unique virtual conference experience. That’s something we’ve been working on for two months, and I think we’ve made excellent progress.

But, I want to check in with some of the folks that help make a State of Reform agenda so thoughtful. That list includes you, our readers. So, given everything going on today in health care and health politics, would you rather have a strong virtual conference in August or September? Or would you rather have a strong in-person event in December? Drop me a note with what you think makes the most sense. I’d appreciate the feedback.





With help from Michael Goldberg

1. Medicaid budget faces cuts of up to 10%

Next week, the interim Social Services Appropriations Committee will meet twice to review the Depts. of Health and of Human Services. Their task is to consider how best to implement cuts of 2%, 5%, or 10% to their budgets as a result of the economic collapse.Early June’s revenue forecast will give the Legislature direction on the scope of possible cuts needed. Year over year tax receipts are down 7.1% coming primarily from personal and corporate income tax hits from the delay in filing this year. However, legislative staff project deficits in the next fiscal year starting in July of between $582 million and $1.287 billion.


2. Interim plans for health policy

The Legislative Management Committee approved a scope of work for interim committees to dig into. COVID dominated many of the topics. Health care issues were relatively narrowly focused otherwise. Pricing for pharmaceuticals, eligibility expansion for Medicaid, and outpatient behavioral health are all lined up to be studied.

Meanwhile, legislators have already requested files open on 247 legislative items for the 2021 session, more than doubling in the last three days. Rep. Brammer has a bill on the “Shared medical costs of pregnancy.” Rep. Watkins has two bills on mental health. Additional titles of bills include “Health Care Payment Amendments,” “Pharmacy Ethics Amendments,” and “Health Dept. Authority Amendments.”


3. Introducing: “5 Slides We’re Discussing”

State of Reform tries to serve as a platform to build community, inform conversations, and elevate some of the most interesting voices and challenges in health reform today. We do this through our daily health care reporting across nine states, our newsletters like this one, and through our annual State of Reform health policy conferences.

So, during this time of COVID, we are launching a new series called “5 Slides We’re Discussing.” The 5 slides conversation will gather a panel of some of health care and health policy’s most thoughtful minds around a discussion of five slides. Panelists will bring slides with graphics, data points, or illustrations of what they see as the most important challenges facing the sector today.

In a week’s time, we will host a conversation titled “5 Slides: How philanthropy is addressing COVID-19.” It’s teed up for Wednesday, May 27, from 1:30 – 2:30 MT. The conversation will feature Steve Williams, COO, Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, Elena Marks, CEO, Episcopal Health Foundation, and Sarah Lyman, Executive Director, Alliance Health Foundation. You can learn more and register for the digital event here.

4. Q&A: Greg Skordas, Democrat for AG

The Democratic Attorneys General Association released a campaign strategy memo this week encouraging candidates to lean hard on the message that Democratic Attorneys General are trying to defend health care while their Republican counterparts are attempting to take it away. Attorney General Reyes is a member of the coalition of GOP Attorneys General that are seeking to repeal the ACA in California v. Texas, which is slated to appear before the Supreme Court this fall.

Greg Skordas is the Democratic candidate for Attorney General in Utah. Skordas will face the winner of the Republican primary race between incumbent AG Sean Reyes and Utah County Attorney David Leavitt. Reporter Michael Goldberg called Skordas to hear his take on the lawsuit, Medicaid expansion, and the legality of a single-payer system.

5. My uncle’s two-month fight with COVID

If I’m honest with you, I wrote this first piece about my uncle as an obituary. He was intubated on March 24th with a ventilator, and the early days of his fight with COVID weren’t good. I held off publishing it, watching his progress until I turned it into a post about his fight rather than his death.

Now, after two months in the fight, he is still in the hospital. He’s off the ventilator and is COVID negative. But, his journey back to “normal” is still a months-long path.

These two pieces are part of a column I’ve been penning these last few months about my time during this pandemic at what we once thought was would be the epicenter of the disease. I share these, from mental health to education policy. I guess I write these as one part therapy, one part first person history, and hopefully one part a tool to help folks dealing with these issues to know others are, as well.