Utahns rally in support of expanding Medicaid

SALT LAKE CITY — From church leaders to recovering addicts and mental health advocates, hundreds of people showed up at the state capitol to rally in support of Medicaid expansion in Utah.

However, will the state take the federal dollars to expand Medicaid? That question has been the center of a divisive debate this legislative session.

Gov. Gary Herbert is pushing lawmakers to take the federal dollars, saying it would be illogical not to. But the most powerful woman in the House, Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-District 64, doesn’t agree.

There’s a portion of Utah’s population pushing for the state to take the federal funds for Medicaid expansion. Some of those people showed up to the State Capitol with signs like “do it for the children” and “recovery saved my life.”

“I am in treatment at the moment,” said Cassondra Thompson, who is a recovering addict and a convicted felon. “Most jobs that I can get being a felon don’t offer it.”

Cassondra is one of hundreds who came to the Capitol, with a message for lawmakers: “I say, what would you do if it was your child, or you that needed it? Where would you be?”

While Utahns wait in limbo, there’s a real fight over what the state will do, and that battle seems to be between Lockhart and Herbert. Two Republicans, with two very different ideas on how to handle health care coverage. Herbert says take the federal money. Lockhart says, no: let the state create a program to take care of the less fortunate.

“Where do we get the best bang for the Utah taxpayer? It makes it difficult for me to see them paying more money and providing help for fewer people. That seems to be illogical to me,” Herbert said Wednesday during his monthly press address.

“I don’t know what’s illogical or what doesn’t make sense about providing a solution for people, a state-based solution for those in need before we get involved in an unsustainable partnership with the federal government,” Lockhart said in response.

Part of the state-based solution would be for churches to pay for medical care for the poor.

“Medicaid expansion is deeply important to me,’ said Bishop Scott Hayashi of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, who thinks religious organizations couldn’t possibly bear the financial burden.

“One surgery can be $10,000, and most churches simply don’t have that funding to accommodate that, so if you multiply that by all the people who are in need of assistance, it simply cannot be handled,” he said.

“We’re the backbone of communities, we are the people that make the hamburgers and clean the hotel rooms, we’re the ones doing that,”  Thompson said.

While there is some support for Lockhart’s plan,  Senator Brian Shiozawa, R-District 8, plans to introduce a bill next week that could align with what the governor wants.

5 comments

  • Eric Anderson

    When will they be having the “Higher Taxes Rally”? Or do they have a plan to magically expand services and not cost anyone anything?

    Liberals are all about taking, but never about giving. Not ONE of them stepped up with a check made out to the State.

    • Maude Norman

      Medicaid expansion will be funded by tax dollars Utahns have already given to the Federal government. Look at it this way. Which costs less? Treating mental illness and substance abuse in the community, or waiting until the person commits a crime or antisocial activity and lands in prison at a cost of $27,000 per inmate for a year. Which costs less? Preventative health care, or waiting until a person is near death, goes to the ER, a week in ICU, two weeks in the hospital and six weeks of outpatient IV antibiotics? That is exactly what happened to my uninsured friend. He couldn’t afford medical insurance and didn’t qualify for Medicaid. Eric, Medicaid expansion will save lives and save money!

    • beforeadam

      Even if you don’t like Medicaid look at it this way (point of clarification: medicaid is extra constitutional and to fund it requires taking money by force from others. there is noting Christlike about medicaid. it is theft. The means must always be calculated with the ends when measuring an action)

      Not taking federal tax money at the state level for expanded medicaid is like 1 of 2 things. Refusing to accept a tax return because in theory it will lower the cost of everyone else taxes. (keep in mind the federal government stole it from us in the first place, we want our money back.)

      or not putting your retirement money in a non taxable fund when your using the exact same fund but in a taxable way. Medicaid is the opposite of what God wants for an ideal system, Medicaid is about theft, it is used to cover up the much larger theft occurring, it makes a good smoke screen. your not justified in holding your neighbor at gun point to pay your child’s medical bill, no one is, we have no right to do so as a community.

      But there is no shame in accepting your own money back.

  • Kimberly

    There are many diseases which make people suffering and medication costs too much to do something with that. Surely government has to support people with Medicaid. And if there is not enough dollars in the budget it is a good choice to use reliable provider on the web.

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