Legislature playing God in debate over healthcare

Here in Utah, the debate over Medicaid Expansion has gone back and forth for more than two years now.

It was clear from the beginning that although it would be the simplest and least expensive way to cover the most people, full expansion would never win the support of our elected officials. In fact, in order to make sure that the Governor didn’t take it on himself to make that decision, the legislature passed a law requiring any final decision on expansion, to have legislative approval.

For the last two years we’ve been hearing arguments from all sides.

Some say that expansion will cost Utah money by forcing us to pay for people who can’t pay for their own coverage. Others say it will save money by covering those people whose only real option is emergency care that drives the cost up for everyone.

Some say that we should require those who need coverage to work. Others say that there are consequences beyond their control and we should help without judgement.

Some say we should cover 138% of the poverty level to be in line with full medicaid expansion and receive the full amount of federal money. Others say we shouldn’t go beyond 100% of the poverty level; let those above get their own coverage, and we’ll deal with only getting 70% of the federal money.

Even polls can’t agree. The Sutherland Institute poll showed that the majority of those they polled preferred leaving medicaid as is with no expansion, while two more legitimate polls show the majority of Utahns support some type of expansion with the Utah Policy/Dan Jones poll showing support at 67% and the Utah Health Policy Project poll showing support at over 80%.

But what is at the core of all these arguments? People. Between 55,000 and 120,000 Utahns would finally have medical coverage if any of the various scenarios are finally approved and implemented. But without expansion, people will continue to go without healthcare, will continue to suffer and rely on emergency rooms, and will die from lack of care.

Legislators may value their right to thumb their noses at federal programs but they would do well to remember that in doing so with Medicaid expansion, they turn their backs on the Utahns they have pledged to represent.

Its time to stop the petty arguing and the partisan rhetoric. It is time for expansion–in whatever form that takes–to come to Utah. It is time to tell those who desperately need coverage that we value their lives over our politics.

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