Senator Davis Op-ed: Fully Expand Medicaid to Truly Help Needy Utahns

Senator Gene Davis recently had an Op-Ed published in the Salt Lake Tribune (March 10th, 2015).  Davis 2013

This Op-Ed explains his position concerning the several health care bills that have been brought before the legislature this session. As the session ended without any resolution concerning health care, we, as the Utah Senate Democrats, want you share this Op-Ed with you.

Below is Senator Gene Davis’ Op-Ed in it’s entirety. The link follows below and we encourage you to share.

Op-ed: Fully expand Medicaid to truly help needy Utahns

As the Utah Legislature winds down, one major issue remains before us — deciding if and how the state of Utah will provide access to health care for those at the lower end of the economic scale.

Before us is Healthy Utah, a program that many have touted as the solution. Healthy Utah provides health care coverage to 199,000 people with federal tax dollars for two years and then dead-ends. At the end of
those two years,we will be putting thousands of lives in jeopardy as we will need to have the same debate we are having today — if and how Utah will provide access to health care for many of its citizens.

I recently had a conversation with a young woman who was gainfully employed and had access to health insurance from her employer. Then she became ill and, consequently, she lost her job. Now her only option for health care is through the emergency room, where she has amassed $250,000 in medical debt. She cannot afford the tests needed to diagnose her health problems. Many people find themselves in similar situations without access to needed health care. Healthy Utah, utilizing federal dollars for premium subsidies, would provide health insurance to many individuals; but my huge concern with Healthy Utah is the large amount of money needed for deductibles and co-pays, which results in large annual out-of-pocket expenses.

During this 2015 session, I offered Senate Bill 83, Robust Utah (full Medicaid expansion). This bill provides an ongoing program that allows access to Medicaid coverage for eligible individuals. In the state of Utah, 199,000 individuals would be able to access health care starting in 2016. Each year using 90 percent federal dollars and 10 percent Utah dollars, an average of $500 million (with a five-year total of nearly $3
billion) would be placed into the state’s economy. Under the Affordable Care Act, the state has the opportunity to accept the expansion of Medicaid (Robust Utah) and provide access for those living below 138
percent of the federal poverty line. That means a family of four with an annual income of $33,465 or under would be eligible. Healthy Utah, while covering the same number of people, essentially subsidizes the health insurance industry, requires enrollees to accumulate large amounts of out-of-pocket expenses, and dead-ends after two years.

I have proposed Robust Utah because I have noted Healthy Utah’s incredible downfalls. Robust Utah is all about access. Robust Utah provides health care access well into the future. It ensures that individuals who work hard can get the health care they need. Utah still has a consequential choice to make this legislative session. Do we, as a state, provide affordable health care coverage to Utah’s citizens, including the working

Sen. Gene Davis is a Democrat representing South Salt Lake and parts of Salt Lake City, West Valley City and Murray in the Utah Senate.

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