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Editorial: Greg Bell's trip through the revolving door

Published October 22, 2013 2:59 pm

Bell's shift could be good for all
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The revolving door between those who hold public office and those who seek to influence those in public office will never stop turning.

In the case of former Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, though, there is reason to hope that public good and private benefit may be fully compatible.

Bell announced his resignation a few weeks ago, explaining that his $104,000-a-year state salary just wasn't enough as he moved toward retirement. The long-time elected official had scarcely turned in his keys when it was announced that he was taking his abilities — and his contact list — to his new job as president of the Utah Hospital Association.

By state law, a law Bell sponsored when he was a leader in the Utah Senate, the former lieutenant governor will not be able to lobby the executive or the Legislature for a year. By executive order, executive branch officials will be told not to listen to any lobbying Bell might attempt for two years. So it's not like Bell will be showing up in the halls of the Capitol building next week, peddling to his former colleagues ideas that would benefit the state's many hospitals.

Not that he would need to. Bell's encyclopedic knowledge of how government works will now be at the disposal of the UHA as it goes about its constitutionally protected business of influencing public policy.

It's all a bit too convenient, perhaps, because Bell was on the public's dime when he acquired the knowledge and acquaintances that make him worthy of the presumable high salary the UHA will be paying him.

A reason to take heart, meanwhile, is that perhaps the biggest public policy issue of concern to the UHA right now is one where the interests of the state's hospitals and the interest of the state as a whole may just happen to coincide.

The issue is whether Utah will do the right thing and take full advantage of the offer made by the federal Affordable Care Act to expand Medicaid eligibility to households with as much as 138 percent of poverty-level income. It is a question much on the minds of people at the state's hospitals, even though the UHA has as yet taken no position on the issue.

Full Medicaid expansion, though, would pay hospitals for millions of dollars in care they now have to write off, eating some of the cost and shifting the rest to other patients, health insurers and taxpayers. It would also provide coverage to thousands of Utahns who now lack it, to the financial and ethical benefit of all concerned.

If that is what Greg Bell accomplishes as he passes through the revolving door, we will all have reason to be pleased.