Rep. Mike Kennedy: Access to healthcare could kill poor

The Better UTAH Beat airs Tuesday afternoons on KVNU’s For the People. Podcasts of previous episodes are available here.
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Representative Mike Kennedy, a Republican from Alpine Utah, thinks hospitals are dangerous. He made this known during a recent meeting of the Health Reform Task Force.

He said, “Sometimes access to health care can be damaging and dangerous. And it’s a perspective for the [Legislative] body to consider is that, I’ve heard from National Institutes of Health and otherwise that we’re killing up to a million, a million and a half people every year in our hospitals. And it’s access to hospitals that’s killing those people.”

So, according to Kennedy, we’re saving all these poor people from the risks of modern medicine by denying them benefits? Interesting perspective.

It is also important to note that Rep. Kennedy is a doctor. He is apparently ignoring the millions of people who are helped, and even saved, by receiving hospital care every year.

Yes, people die in hospitals–Terminally ill people die in hospitals; mortally wounded people die in hospitals; infants born with defects die in hospitals.

Yes, it happens, people die in hospitals. But his argument is absurd.

One of the primary reasons to provide health care is to ensure a healthy society, a society where people who are ill are able to see a doctor and be provided with care long before the situation becomes an emergency.

When people do not have health care it isn’t a matter of if they’ll need to see a doctor, but when. And without coverage, the only option most will have is to visit an emergency room. Rep. Kennedy’s argument that we keep them from potential death at a hospital by not extending Medicaid coverage is the exact opposite of what will happen. In fact, these same folks will ONLY have a hospital as their care option and they’ll likely not visit the hospital until their situation is dire. And yes, some of those people will die.

But what’s really behind Rep. Mike Kennedy’s easily countered statement? It is just one more way the Legislature is stonewalling the plan to expand healthcare to those of us who need it most. Every day they delay, someone else is sick and unable to see a physician. Every month we wait, it is more money—money already allocated and paid (by us in the form of taxes), we don’t receive back into our own state to help our own people. Every delay sends a message to less fortunate Utahns, that the legislature just doesn’t care about them, that they’d rather put petty political infighting ahead of sound compassionate policy.

As it turns out, according to a recent Dan Jones poll, the vast majority of Utahns—88% of us– support expanding Medicaid, especially if done through Governor Herbert’s Healthy Utah plan.

Petitions have been sent to legislators, calls have been made to the Governor’s office, economists, healthcare organizations and others have all weighed in with support for expansion, yet the legislature sits on its hands—or worse, blames the poor and extolls the virtues of refusing health care like Rep. Mike Kennedy.

This isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last, the legislature ignores the will of the people—the very people they have been elected to represent.

It is time for every Utahn to stand with those of us, our neighbors, our family members, our friends–who so desperately need healthcare and demand the legislature listen. And if they don’t listen then it is time to elect representatives who will.

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