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Op-Ed: Rise above politics and expand Medicaid

Published December 11, 2013 4:36 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Gov. Gary Herbert has been tasked with a duty which some would construe as political, but is in truth, not.

The potential Medicaid expansion is much more about people, specifically Utah families, than politics.

In his hands lies the power to affect Utah's economy and family health in a very positive way that truly is unprecedented. It is regarding this decision that my "prescription" is written.

As a practicing physician, I find it sobering to reflect on the lives and situations of those who visit my office and depend on me to shepherd them along the path of health care.

Some of my patients are fortunate enough to possess the precious resource of health insurance. Some are not so lucky. On a personal level, I have had to occasionally watch impotently as some of these uninsured Utahns suffer the very adverse health consequences of this deficiency, sometimes with cataclysmic outcomes.

Many of these are part of the "working poor," and earn just enough to not qualify for Medicaid under the present state parameters, but not enough to afford private coverage. The proposed federally funded Medicaid expansion, which will cover such individuals up to 133 percent of current poverty levels, would address their situation.

Many of these individuals belong to young Utah families, who often live paycheck to paycheck. Just one uninsured health catastrophe can send such families into the ranks of the truly impoverished.

We know that the personal unexpected healthcare disaster is the single greatest driver of bankruptcy in the state of Utah currently.

State Sen. Stuart R. Reid, R-Ogden, and his colleagues have done much research to identify those belonging to the category of intergenerational versus situational poverty. In Utah the percentage of those who belong to the situational poverty group far outstrips those suffering intergenerational poverty.

More could be done by our governor embracing the entirety of the Medicaid expansion, for the cause of reducing poverty in Utah, than by any other currently viable single measure.

Economists have calculated the net positive impact on the Utah economy in the billions of dollars, by simply accepting this boon to which Utah taxpayers have already contributed.

As a citizen and one who sees the effects of health care, or the lack thereof, in the lives of my patients, up close and personally, I call upon our governor to resist listening to those around him who would make this a political issue.

There is no over-arching moral principle that need suffer. It is possible to follow the "better angels of our nature," by simply doing the right thing now for Utah families.

Peter Clemens is an Ogden physician and Democratic candidate for Utah's 1st congressional district.