Utah Republicans talk about plans for the interim

Three key Republicans with vast health policy experience joined State of Reform at our 2021 Utah State of Reform Health Policy Conference to discuss their plans for the interim and next session. 

 

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On the panel, we had Sen. Jacob Anderegg, chair of the Senate Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee, Rep. James Dunnigan, chair of the House Political Subdivisions Committee and Rep. Stewart Barlow, member of the House Health and Human Services Committee. 

According to Anderegg, special time is needed to examine and correctly appropriate the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to the right places. In the interim, they are meeting once a month to properly analyze and use the funds wisely. 

If this one-time payment ends up funding an ongoing program — like a long-term Social Services program — that program is at risk of having reduced funding after the money from the one-time payment is used up. 

Anderegg explained:

“So much of the Social Services budget has an ongoing funding source requirement. We are talking about people who typically have long-term needs. Therefore, funding those long-term needs and programs with one-time money is a bad idea.”

Telehealth use has grown significantly in Utah due to the pandemic, according to Barlow. Due to the wide expansion of telehealth services, its continued growth can shape the future of health care and provide equitable access to underserved and rural communities, according to Barlow. 

This can be especially advantageous for mental and behavioral health visits because the patient can engage with providers from their home, where the patient can be more comfortable and more safe. Barlow said:

“We are going to have a lot of changes that we are going to have to adapt to. Fortunately we have money that will help us make those changes. I think only good things are coming forward.”

All panelists agreed that transparency between all silos of the health care sector was necessary to help provide the best quality care with the lowest cost in Utah. 

Anderegg said:

“I would love to see a task force put together on this. I don’t know any other way to get all of the stakeholders together and really hammer through what the goal would be, which is reducing health care costs. I think that would be time well spent. It may take several years, but I think we would see huge savings in the long run.”