August 2017 Interim Session Update: “Healthcare and All that Good Stuff”

Healthcare and All that Good Stuff: August 2017

It was a busy week on the hill for healthcare committees. Legislators heard from various groups on medicaid expansion, insurance premiums, and general healthcare structures.

Healthcare Systems

Legislators heard from the The Commonwealth Fund, which included a presentation on the general health of the healthcare system, comparison of Utah’s healthcare system to other systems, and presented few possible solutions. They essentially shared information that we’ve been hearing for the past ten years: among high-income countries, the United States spends the most on healthcare, but has the worst healthcare outcomes. They suggested Utah look at the top-performing healthcare systems in the world (Netherlands, UK, and Australia) and use their principles to improve healthcare in Utah. Unfortunately, where I heard improvement, the legislators heard socialism.  Senator Christensen said these “socialistic” healthcare systems “send shivers down [his] spine,” and declared he wouldn’t sacrifice anything if it meant government-controlled healthcare.

It was astounding to see that despite overwhelming evidence and high quality research, many legislators remain incredibly close-minded to certain solutions. Are they just waiting for someone to say that the United States’ capitalistic driven health care system is going to work? Something clearly needs to change.

Intermountain Health Care then presented and discussed the problem of funding. Basically, they suggested to merely reform the exchange system. Rather than have healthy people that hardly use their healthcare benefits, IHC suggested to go back to a high-risk pool that would be government funded. Again, the mere mention of government taking liability for its most vulnerable citizens was apparently too much for the legislators. Heated comments ensued because of course it is unacceptable for the government to care its citizens.

It will be important to continue watching how the healthcare system develops in Utah. While the legislators do seem earnest in bringing positive change to Utah, it is equally evident they will be very slow to change long-held beliefs and ideologies about healthcare.  

Federal Exchanges & Medicaid

Bad news on this front. While it was originally expected to still have three insurers in the exchange, Molina Healthcare recently announced they would be leaving the exchange. Having only two insurers on the exchange will limit insurance options and creates the problem of re-assigning people previously insured by Molina Healthcare. As such, premium increases are still up in the air, but they are expected to increase substantially.

In other news, the Department of Health is submitting a waiver that would change medicaid provision for the most vulnerable population, mainly the chronically homeless. Read a brief summary here. Many health groups oppose this waiver claiming that it discriminates against the most vulnerable and is not Utah-specific. The waiver is supposed to be approved or denied by October 31st, so more discussion is expected to follow.

– Laura Boyer, Karen Shepherd Policy and Advocacy Fellow

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