Tribune Editorial: Prop 3 repeal is a cruel lie to the people of Utah

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Ma Black, Beth Armstrong and Bob Mayhew become emotional as they hear the words given by cancer survivor Christie Sorensen who says medicaid saved her life during a demonstration in the Capitol rotunda on Monday, Jan, 28, 2019, on the first day of the Legislative session to rally in support of protecting Proposition 3, the Medicaid Expansion law recently passed by voters.

“Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you value.”

Joe Biden

The Utah Legislature, assisted by an overly meek governor and a stunningly silent medical establishment, has shown us all what it thinks is important: Having a state where far too many people have no access to health care.

Clearly they like it that way. They like it so much that they are willing to spend more of your money to pursue a plan that will cover fewer of your neighbors, just for the right to say that Utah is not going to venture anywhere near the enlightened status of nations — and states — that view access to health care as a basic human service.

Maintaining that disgraceful Third World status for this supposedly well-run and conservative state was important enough to an overwhelming majority of lawmakers that, rather than accept the frugal and compassionate expansion of Medicaid as approved by the voters in Proposition 3, they rushed through an effective repeal in the form of Senate Bill 96.

In order to get there, backers of SB96 had to tell more than a few lies, to themselves and to us.

They had to tell us that the new law reflects the will of the voters. That it is more fiscally responsible than Prop 3 would have been. That it will cover just as many people as Prop 3 would have. That there was no value in drawing down the hundreds of millions of dollars that full Medicaid expansion would have added to the state’s health care industry and cycled through the whole of the state’s economy. That a state staring at a $1 billion surplus couldn’t afford the cost.

At times, though, the truth just had to shine through.

During the debte, Sen. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, said he “hates” SB96, that both it and Prop 3 are just a nose in the tent toward a day when Utah, or the nation, has universal health care. Which, Anderegg said, would be “the worst thing that could possibly happen to us.”

Well. Now that we have apparently avoided the Armageddon of becoming a modern civilization, maybe we won’t have to sweat such minor risks as climate change, nuclear war, public education or streets that don’t run with sewage.

One wonders how such people can sleep at night, much less be elected to public office.

One threat, er, hope remains. Prop 3 was basically the full expansion of Medicaid as laid out in the federal Affordable Care Act (plus a small sales tax hike to cover the state’s share), so its implementation would have been automatic. But because the Legislature couldn’t resist the urge to scratch that itch, SB96 won’t happen unless the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services approves some waivers from the ACA. Waivers it has not granted to any other state.

If the government won’t give the Legislature its exemption from 21st century civilization, we may yet get Prop 3, just as the voters intended.

It’s a slim reed to cling to, but right now it’s all we have.