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Editorial: Uninsured list grows as Utah dithers

Published July 18, 2014 4:15 pm

Thousands wait for Medicaid choice.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A life-and-death problem that faces many Utahns turns out to be even worse than we thought, which apparently means that some of our elected officials are even less willing to face it.

Disgraceful.

A new University of Utah study shows that the number of state residents who continue to wait for access to health care at a level that the residents of civilized nations take for granted — who wait because our politicians are allergic to President Obama's Affordable Care Act — is greater than we knew.

The state had been using a number of some 54,000 adults who would be covered by the expansion of Medicaid under the ACA, either by a straight expansion or through Gov. Gary Herbert's more complicated, and more private-sector based, Healthy Utah scheme.

But new data presented to a legislative committee Thursday indicates that a simple expansion of Medicaid to serve every household with incomes of less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level would add 77,000 adults to the rolls.

And if Medicaid eligibility were to expand to 138 percent of poverty — the point at which Obamacare tax subsidies would be available through the private market — the number tops 103,000.

That means that there are more people, more of our friends and family, more of our co-workers, more or our children's classmates, who need help. They would already be getting that help if the U.S. Supreme Court had not made the ACA requirement of Medicaid expansion optional to each state, and if Utah lawmakers were not raising all kinds of fatuous objections to the program.

But instead of seeing that the need is even more serious than previously thought, that the offer of $300 million in federal money each year against $40 million to $60 million in state funds is even more appealing, legislators who heard the report were heard to say that Medicaid expansion seemed even riskier than they knew. Adding more time, and doubt, to an already long-overdue decision.

It seems that some so-called conservatives are better labeled simply as cynics who, as Oscar Wilde said, know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Increased access to health care has great value to society, far exceeding any short-term taxpayer cost. More productive workers. More successful students. Fewer bankruptcies. Fewer failed businesses. More jobs. Much less in the way of costs shifted to taxpayers or absorbed by providers.

It also means, quite starkly, less suffering and less death. It's that simple. And it's that important.