What if I told you that for the price of one penny on a movie ticket you could help ensure that 150,000 working Utahns do not face financial ruin because of unexpected medical problems? It almost seems too good to be true — but it’s not.
Proposition 3 would do just that by providing access to health care to working Utahns, including those with chronic illnesses like epilepsy, who earn under $17,000 a year individually or less than $34,000 per year for a family of four.
Expanding Medicaid would be a lifeline to these individuals who are currently unable to afford health insurance. They make too much to be eligible for traditional Medicaid and make too little to afford coverage under the Affordable Care Act marketplace.
For people living with epilepsy, prescription medication is the most common treatment option. This treatment, however, can come with a price tag, especially for those who do not have medical insurance. When that prescription drug cost gets too high, people often forego or ration their medication.
People living with epilepsy who cannot afford their medication, or who do not take it as prescribed, are at a higher risk for accident, injury, hospitalization or even death. By expanding Medicaid to cover 150,000 working Utahns, we can help ensure that more people with chronic conditions can afford their lifesaving treatments.
You may be wondering how one cent could possibly pay for this program. By voting “yes” on Proposition 3, we would unlock nearly $800 million in federal funding each year. This is money that 33 other states already get, but Utah has been missing out on for five years. Federal funding will pay for the vast majority of the program — about 90 percent — and it only requires a “yes” vote from you. The rest of the funding comes from a small sales tax increase on non-grocery items — only 0.15 percent — to cover the program. To put it in perspective, a 0.15 percent increase is equivalent to one cent on the price of a movie ticket, 5 cents on a pair of shoes, or 10 cents on a new video game. In the end, our pocket change can provide health care for 150,000 of our friends, family and neighbors who need it most.
People living with epilepsy can face a heavy financial burden as they try to manage their condition. Those on regular medication often struggle to find a way to afford their prescription drug bill which can range from $1,000 to $3,000 and sometimes more each month. On average, individuals without seizure control spend over $33,000 each year in related medical expenses. Medicaid expansion can help ease this burden by providing adequate coverage for those who need it most. This is why the Epilepsy Foundation Utah has joined other patient advocacy groups in the state to support Proposition 3.
It’s time that we join the 33 other states that have already accepted millions of dollars in federal funding to expand Medicaid. By voting “yes” on Proposition 3, we can ensure working Utahns receive the health insurance coverage they deserve, create jobs in the state, and bring in millions of dollars from the federal government each year.
So, can you spare a penny?
Margo Thurman is executive director of the Epilepsy Foundation Utah.