In This Issue


Utah Policy: The 2016 Legislative Session Gets Underway on Capitol Hill

Although Utah has a surplus of more than $600 million, by law nearly half of that money will go to education, roads, and other big-ticket items. If legislative leaders get their way, another third of that surplus will go into the Rainy Day Fund. That doesn’t leave much room for funding other critical health, human, and social services.

This year, we begin our advocacy on the hill by following two specific budget-related items very closely. The first item is a request for a second year of a pay increase meant to attract and retain qualified staff who can provide quality support to individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities living in the community. The initial request hadn’t made it into the governor’s budget recommendation. The second item we’re following is a request from county mental health centers for a total of $6 million to help continue serving current and new Medicaid clients.

Regarding the expansion of Medicaid, there continues to be a variety of scaled-back ideas, most of which would only cover a limited number of people—those who make below a particular amount, or individuals with certain serious conditions or significant needs. While the governor has suggested designating $10 million to help the uninsured, we will be sure to evaluate any proposal based on the quality and affordability of care it provides, as well as the number of vulnerable Utahns it protects.

We’re also poised to run at least two bills of our own. H.B. 181 encourages popular ride-sharing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, to make themselves more accessible to passengers with disabilities. The second bill would prevent public schools from using physical restraint against a student who is only destroying property.

In addition to running our own bills, we’ll be paying close attention to various efforts being made by others. For example, changes to the requirements for obtaining guardianship of an adult with a disability continue to be discussed. As do changes to the way treatment is provided to individuals in jail who have been found legally incompetent. We’ve also heard that there may be an attempt to change the law preventing landlords from refusing to rent to a tenant based on his or her source of income.

While we probably won’t see any major systems-change or any large-scale projects like we did during last year’s legislative session, the smallest shifts in public policy will continue to have the biggest impact for Utahns with disabilities and their families. Still, as is true every during every year, nothing, whether it’s big or small, can or will change without you.

Visit our public policy webpage frequently for updates, bills, testimony, and more.


What Could Medicaid Expansion Look Like in Utah

Utah legislators continue to propose a variety of ideas to expand federal Medicaid benefits to vulnerable Utahns. Here’s some of what Utah Health Policy Project (UHPP) has heard so far.

  • Rep. Jim Dunnigan (R): Rep. Dunnigan’s proposal would shift some Utahns currently receiving very basic healthcare through Utah’s Primary Care Network (PCN) into Medicaid, so that other low-income Utahns can enroll in PCN. By 2018, 12,000 Utahns could receive Medicaid coverage.
  • Sen. Allen Christensen (R): By 2018, Sen. Christensen believes that 6,400 Utahns could recieve Medicaid benefits through his “Access to Healthcare” plan, however, only Utahns with significant mental or behavioral health needs or the most severe chronic conditions would be covered.
  • Rep. Ray Ward (R): By 2021, Rep. Ward’s expansion proposal would likely extend healthcare coverage to 145,000 Utahns, with income up to 133% of poverty, through a combination of Medicaid and private insurance coverage. Different benefits may be offered to individuals based on their income and/or medical need.
  • Rep. Robert Spendlove (R): Rather than expanding Medicaid, Rep. Spendlove’s proposal would send a message to the federal gov’t that Utah would expand Medicaid coverage only if the federal gov’t covers more of the cost of doing so. Also, if expanded, beneficiaries would be required to work.
  • Sen. Gene Davis (D): Sen. Davis proposes Medicaid expansion as envisioned by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This would extend full Medicaid coverage to an estimated 126,500 Utahns by 2018.

Positively Confused: HIV and Tattoos

Question: Recently, I decided to take the leap and get my first tattoo…well, my first tattoo since being diagnosed as HIV+ that is.

Upon visiting the tattoo parlor, I filled out the screening form, as I’d done in the past, except this time I checked the box stating that I am HIV+. I didn’t think my HIV status would really be a problem since some of my friends who are also HIV+ have gotten tattoos since being diagnosed. Unfortunately, I was wrong. After reviewing my form, the shop turned me away and said their policy prevents them from tattooing anyone with any blood-borne illness due to the risk it poses to staff and other patrons.

I left ashamed, humiliated, and confused. Can a tattoo shop set a policy to refuse people with HIV?

Answer: No, a tattoo shop cannot set a blanket policy excluding people with HIV from its services. A diagnosis of HIV is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because HIV substantially limits the functioning of amajor system of the body—the immune system. A tattoo shop is a “public accommodation,” covered under the ADA because it is a business, open to the public, which provides a service in return for money. As a public accommodation, a tattoo shop cannot refuse service to a person solely because the person has a disability. There is an exception for situations where serving a patron would be a direct threat to health or safety. But such a direct threat must be based on an individualized assessment of risk, and real facts specific to the patron in question. Under the ADA, a business can’t just refuse service to HIV+ people based on bad science, imagined risks, stigma, stereotypes, etc. This holds true even if the services being provided happen to involve needles, sharp instruments, and blood.

Aaron Kinikini, DLC Legal Director


Voting 2016

Will you be a part of electing our next leaders? Participate in the 2016 Election. Get registered to vote today. Visit vote.utah.gov.

If you have questions, encounter problems, or would like to request a presentation, call (800) 662-9080 or visit our contact page. For more information about disability and voting visit https://youtu.be/4SHvXahfDnM.


Greetings from VR: Order-of-Selection Updates

The last group of clients in the Most Significantly Disabled (MSD) category will be released from the Order-of-Selection (OOS) waitlist. Since opening the MSD category in November, more than 1, 450 clients have been activated from the waitlist.

Beginning Jan. 11, the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation (USOR) kept the MSD category open. This means that all individuals determined eligible and classified as Most Significantly Disabled will bypass the wait list (Delayed Status) and move from “Applicant” to “Eligible” status.

At this time, the Significantly Disabled (SD) and Disabled (D) categories will remain closed. VR will continue to to monitor Client Service expenditures in order to confidently determine when we have sufficient resources available to open the SD category.

For more information about the latest VR eligibility news or to find the answers to frequently asked questions, please visit: usor.utah.gov. And as always, if you have questions about your rights as a VR applicant or client, please contact us at (800) 622-9080 or disabilitylawcenter.org/contact.