Commentary: Why do Utah legislators not want to help people in need of health care?

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah faith leaders gather at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City on Wed. Oct. 3, 2018, to make a joint statement in support of Prop 3, which would expand Medicaid in Utah.

What good is the vote of the people if politicians take it upon themselves to change the wording, scope and direction of the bill that was presented to their constituents?

With Proposition 3, this very thing happened. Utahns voted yes on this proposal by 53.32 percent. This law would provide Medicaid health services for persons under the age of 65 who have an income equal to or lower than 138 percent of the federal poverty line.

The pushback from politicians now is focused on the funding. On the face of their argument, this makes sense. Money comes from somewhere and, although we would love to help everyone, sometimes there are not enough resources to do that and we have to be responsible and say no from time to time. However, this is not the case with Prop 3. The federal government would pay for 90 percent of the cost for this health care initiative under the Affordable Care Act.

Sure, there is a possibility of that being repealed. But Utahns cannot sit and wait and do nothing when there is only a possibility of that funding being taken away. If it is taken away, we scrap the bill and start over, but at least we are doing something. The state of Utah will only be responsible for the remaining 10 percent. That remaining 10 percent will be funded by an increase in the state sales tax from 4.70 percent to 4.85 percent. This increase will more than pay for the state of Utah’s share Medicaid expansion.

The question we ask is why would Utah legislators not want to help those in need of health care? Ten percent of the total cost for what we would be getting in any business deal seems like a great deal for the party only paying a mere 10 percent.

The state of Utah has about 150,000 people that fall into what is considered the “coverage gap.” These are families that make more than what Utah currently considers poverty in order to qualify for Medicaid. As Utah residents, we have voted to care for those in need of care. It seems that the people of this state want to invest in human capitol. Why are our legislators rewriting this law? Where are the values of the legislators?

This Medicaid expansion would help many people gain lifesaving health care. In the opposing arguments, it was stated that Utah has already considered those in need and that healthcare for the vulnerable population has already been achieved. This is simply not true! There are still many of our friends, family members and neighbors that do not have adequate healthcare who are left uncovered and vulnerable to sickness and potentially even death.

Bernice Tenort, RNC, BSN, and Azucena Langston, are both master of social work students at the University of Utah. Tenort is also head nurse of labor and delivery at University Hospital.

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