Medicaid Dollars and Common Sense

Over 3/4 of Utah residents say they support at least some form of Medicaid expansion, yet the Republicans refuse to budge on this issue.  Their refusal to accept even the minimal expansion proposed by Gov. Herbert last session is a slap in the face to hard-working Utah families who don’t earn enough to afford health insurance and who cannot access the tax credits intended to make that insurance affordable.

Full Medicaid expansion isn’t just the right thing to do; it makes sound financial sense.

The current talk on the Hill is that House Republicans will introduce a bill that will cover only 16,000 or so Utahns and will cost us $30 million.

Meanwhile, Sen. Gene Davis is proposing a full Medicaid expansion that will cover ALL of the over 110,000 Utahns who are eligible for Medicaid under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), but who haven’t had the opportunity due to Utah’s refusal to expand Medicaid.  The plan would cost less than $50 million, and would bring in over $300 million in federal dollars in return every year. Not only is that a sound investment, but it is the right thing to do.

Medicaid expansion is supported by our healthcare providers, by our business community, and by our citizens, but not by Republicans in our Legislature.  Why?

It’s time to stop playing games with people’s lives and get this done. Now!

UPDATE: Rep. Dunnigan’s plan is making it’s way though the House, but make no mistake. This is NOT Medicaid expansion.  Look at the two plans and compare for yourself.  The choice is simple. Full Medicaid Expansion is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do.

Medicaid Comparisons

Members of Minority Caucus React to the Rejection of Medicaid Expansion

Earlier this week, the Utah Access Plus proposal was rejected in the House of Representatives. There will likely be no special session for Medicaid Expansion. Alternatives for covering the gap will be revisited during the 2016 Legislative Session.

Senator Davis, Minority Leader of the Senate Democrat Caucus, said, “The failure to get any Medicaid Expansion in Utah means we continue to step over tens of thousands of Utahns who need it most. It is incalculable how much this failure will cost Utah’s economy. Without expanding Medicaid, Utah is continuing to forgo millions of federal dollars. This is money lost to our economy. This shows on the part of the Legislature that there is no desire to make sure those on the lowest income scale have access to health care.”

Senator Davis continues, “It is a shame that the citizens of our state cannot count on the Legislature to adopt a sensible Medicaid Expansion plan that would provide access to health care for all Utahns. This affects everyone in our state and we cannot keep putting off a solution.”

Senator Escamilla shares her thoughts, “I am disappointed in the lack of action on this critical issue. Once again the most vulnerable residents of our state are suffering from nonsense politics.”

Immediately following the House’ rejection of the Medicaid Expansion proposal, Utah Access Plus, on Tuesday, Senator Dabakis said, “This is a red letter day for stupidity in Utah’s political history…The shameful actions of the Utah GOP House put ideology and politics ahead of common sense.”

Democrats stand together and vote NO on Controversial Health Care Compact

From the Salt Lake Tribune
by Lee Davidson

The Senate gave preliminary approval Friday to a controversial health care compact bill that both sides say is strong medicine — but disagree whether it will cure or kill Medicare and Medicaid in Utah.

Senators voted 20-7 to advance SB208 by Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, to a final Senate vote.

The bill would have Utah join an interstate compact seeking to opt out of federal health care reform to let states control programs such as Medicaid and Medicare with federal block grants.

“I think we can manage our affairs better than the federal government,” Adams said. “I think there’s lots of money to be gained” through local innovation that he says is hindered by federal red tape.

But Sen. Patricia Jones, D-Holladay, said many questions are unanswered about whether block grants would keep pace with inflation, and what administrative costs would be locally. The Utah Health Policy Project estimated in committee that Utah could lose $132 million in Medicaid by 2014 if the bill passes.

Click here to read the whole story

Click here to see how your Senator voted.

House passes tanning bill – now to the governor for signature

The Utah House passes a bill on Wednesday that requires parent consent for minors who want to use tanning beds.

Parents will be asked to sign a consent form each time a minor uses a tanning device.  Facilities that provide tanning services also need to post warning signs on the risks of tanning.

To get the rest of the story, click here.


Know Your Breast Density!

Know your breast density
by Senator Karen Mayne, D–West Valley City 

Every 3 minutes a woman in theUnited Statesis diagnosed with breast cancer.  Every 13 minutes a woman in the U.S.dies from  breast cancer.  38% of breast cancers in the U.S. are diagnosed at a later stage where the cancer has spread beyond the breast.  Breast density is one of the strongest predictors of the failure of mammography screening to detect cancer in the early stages.

Dense breast tissue is comprised of less fat and more connective tissue which appears white on a mammogram.  Cancer also appears white on a mammogram, thus tumors are often hidden behind the dense tissue.  As a woman ages, her breasts usually become more fatty.  Forty percent of women have dense breast tissue, and women with extremely dense breast tissue have a 6 times greater risk of developing cancer than women with fatty breasts.  The good news is that a radiologist can determine from a mammogram if a woman has dense breast tissue.  The disturbing news is that as few as one in 10 women learn about breast density from their physician.

This year, I was pleased to sponsor and pass Senate Bill 31, which recommends that women who have received a mammogram be notified as to whether or not they have dense breast tissue.   The new policy encourages radiologists and physicians to give women more information about our health.  Knowledge is power, and women are smart.  Given the knowledge about our bodies, we will know what to do to take care of ourselves, by seeking out medical professionals who can properly advise us on the next steps to take regarding own health concerns.  However, it is critical that we receive this important information.

The good news is that there are additional cancer screening tools available for women who have been diagnosed with dense breast tissue.  Screening by ultrasound, for example increases detection of cancers at earlier stages in women with this condition.

Breast cancer is a scary diagnosis, but early detection almost always saves lives.  I encourageUtah’s medical community to take the recommendations of Senate Bill 31 and give women all of the necessary information regarding their health.  I also encourage all ofUtah’s women to become more aware of their breast density, to ask questions of your health care provider, and to receive regular mammograms.  If you’re diagnosed with breast density, visit your doctor to discuss more screening options.  It’s a matter of life!




Tanning Bed Regulation Advances Through the Senate

A bill that would require minors using tanning beds to be accompanied by a parent moved a step closer to passage Tuesday despite threats from a Republican to change the measure when it has its final floor vote Wednesday.

Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, proposed SB41 as a way to more tightly regulate tanning salons by requiring parents with minors to read about the health risks that come with a tanning session at a salon.

“If we do it for tattoos and we do it for body piercings, why shouldn’t we be doing this for tanning, which is much more dangerous than possible infections from body piercings and tattoos,” Jones said.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Breast Cancer Screening Bill Passes the Utah Senate & House

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah House of Representatives passed SB32 last week.  The bill, sponsored by Senator Karen Mayne, D–West Valley City, will encourage medical providers to inform patients of the presence of dense breast tissue and recommend extra screenings to detect possible cancer growth.

The bill previously passed the Utah Senate.   It now goes to the Governor for final signing.

“This will save thousands of lives,” Mayne said.

Utah lawmakers give preliminary approval to underage tanning ban

From the Salt Lake Tribune
by Kristen Stewart

Swayed by evidence of the harms of indoor tanning and moving testimony from melanoma survivors, a Senate committee on Thursday endorsed a ban on underage tanning.

Sponsoring Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, initially proposed prohibiting all minors from using commercial tanning beds, but retailored the ban to apply to those age 13 and under. Youths between the ages of 14 and 18 could tan, but only when accompanied by a parent.

The measure passed the Senate Health and Human Services Comittee 4-1, despite the reservations of regulation-averse Republicans.

Click here to read the rest of the story.


Senator Pat Jones bill to restrict tanning bed usage passes Senate Committee

SALT LAKE CITY – A bill that would prohibit anyone under the age of 13 from using tanning bed passed out out of the Senate Health and Human Services committee today.  The bill would also require anyone from the age of 14-18 who uses a tanning bed  to have a  parent accompany to them to the tanning facility.

“This legislation is designed to reduce deaths from melanoma. Utah ranks #1 in deaths from melanoma… we have the highest in the nation for melanoma cases.  We know that 23% of Utah females, grades 10 through 12, our teenagers, are tanning at least once a year. About 5% of them are tanning more than 40 times a year,” said Senator Pat Jones–D, Holladay, the bill’s sponsor.

Senator Jones went on to explain that indoor tanning beds work by shining ultraviolet, UV radiation on to the skin.  UV radiation damages our DNA, and that is what causes skin to go darker.

“This is more dangerous than the midday sun.  It’s more intense and a larger scope and percentage of the skin is exposed to the radiation,” she said.

The World Health Organization’s International Agency Institute for Research on Cancer has classified tanning beds as human carcinogens. They have recommended that no one under the age of 18 years of age use a tanning bed.

The bill now goes to the Senate floor for debate.

Breast Cancer Screening Bill Passes the Utah Senate

From the Salt  Lake Tribune…
by David Montero

The Utah Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that would encourage medical providers to inform patients of the presence of dense breast tissue and recommend extra screenings to detect possible cancer growth.

Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, introduced SB32 this week on the Senate floor and appeared to have total support as lawmaker after lawmaker delivered sometimes-emotional testimony about knowing people diagnosed with breast cancer.

“This will save thousands of lives,” Mayne said.

Click here to read the Salt Lake Tribune Story