Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, said when the Legislature went along with the governor’s proposal to cut state funding for child immunizations, it didn’t intend to create the current situation. “We made decisions during the Legislature based on information that hasn’t … quite worked as anticipated,” he said. He asked the Health & Welfare Department how much it would take to keep the program operating through Jan. 1, 2010, reversing the cuts that went into effect July 1. H&W officials said they’ll work up an estimate and bring it back to the Health Care Task Force this afternoon.
Said Cameron, “What I’m thinking … we’re in a little bit of a pickle, and we can’t really address it until the next legislative session. In the meantime, there’s going to be a lot of consternation and concerns that people aren’t getting immunized.” Cameron said there are a couple of alternatives, including possibly shifting funding from another Health & Welfare program, or appealing to the governor for economic stimulus money. “The governor does have access to about $7 million for emergency situations,” he said. This afternoon, he said, depending on the figures Health & Welfare brings back, he’ll likely call for a vote of the Health Care Task Force on “whether or not the committee wants to suggest or request that the governor use some of that money to tide us over until Jan. 1st and buy us a little time.”
Sara Stover, DFM analyst for the Health & Welfare budget, said, “I think that seems like a completely feasible idea to take back. … It was something that the governor knew we were way behind in our immunization rates, and at that time the state was paying for everybody.” Some policy shift seemed desirable, she said. “I think he would’ve liked to have a little more time. Ideally, if there were some other options … this wasn’t something that we set out to do without having some options.” Said Cameron, “Maybe that’s a direction we can take. If we can get six months breathing time, maybe we can figure it out.”