Uninsured Utahns speak about their struggles at Capitol, few lawmakers attend

SALT LAKE CITY — There was emotional testimony from uninsured Utahns at the State Capitol Thursday night.

Half a dozen lawmakers listened intently to their stories, but is it enough to sway a divided legislature? Still no answer to that question with just five days left in the legislative session, and with only six lawmakers listening to last night’s testimony, it’s tough to know how much impact these stories will have.

While the Senate, House and Governor fight over what the best plan is to expand Medicaid, real Utahns’ lives hang in the balance.

One mother of four spoke during the meeting about her struggles: “I arrived at the doctor’s office and it was the most dreadful feeling I ever had. Here I was facing a medical situation and I had no health insurance. How on earth will I get through this?”

Stories of real life struggles were shared by uninsured Utahns who fall into the wage gap lawmakers are trying to close by reaching a compromise when it comes to expanding Medicaid.

“About four years ago my life was turned upside down and I was a passenger in a horrible car accident, as a result I lost my job, and after my job I lost my health insurance,” said Stacey Davis-Stanford, who is now in a wheelchair.

There was the story of a 14-year-old girl named Avery who talked about the sleepless nights she has, wondering when and if her mother, who almost died from cancer, will have health insurance again.

“I worry about it every night,” she said. “I go to bed and always think, ‘Is she going to be OK, is she going to live?’ because she’s the only person I have in my life.”

A former U.S. Marine who served his country said his wife’s stroke led them down a road to bankruptcy and a life without each other.

“At 67 a disabled veteran, I came home from work one day my wife was gone, 67 alone in the depths of bankruptcy for a stroke I didn’t even have: Marines don’t cry, but they do,” Richard said as he got emotional.

Dozens of Utahns shared their stories with only six lawmakers in the room.

“On the one hand it’s frustrating that not more of the Senate and the House were able to attend, now this is a really busy time, so we have late committee meetings and other commitments,” said Senator Brian Shiozawa, a Republican from Cottonwood Heights who was at the meeting.

Commitments like basketball games? The Utah House of Representatives tweeted a picture Thursday evening showing lawmakers enjoying a good game of ball.

Senator Shiozawa, who is sponsoring legislation that would expand coverage for tens of thousands of Utahns without health insurance, said the stories shared are something more lawmakers should have heard.

“This isn’t a faceless nonworking entitled group of people, rather real people who want to work and want to get on with their lives but need the health care which is so vital for them,” he said.

Senator Shiozawa echoes something the Governor has recently said: there’s no doubt in his mind the legislature will hold a special session to hammer out a deal when it comes to Medicaid expansion. Special sessions typically cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.

6 comments

  • Tracy

    If you are tired of being uninsured eather go get insurance or get a job that offers insurance. This should not be a government problem. I am tired of all of you out there that think everyone else should pay for them. Take a good hard look at some of these people. They will have exspensive cell phones with costly plans, plus texting and data. look at the bling some are wearing, or the gold grill in their mouth, what are they driving, what tires and rims are on their ride????? We need to stop handing out all of this money. If some one needs a helping hand to be a responsible person and substain life without counting on my money. Put a short time limit on the helping hand. Drug test the ones needing help and they must be clean!!!!!

    • Cynthia

      Did you know that insurance companies can deem you uninsurable for things like arthritis? And that if you are deemed uninsurable that all insurance companies will deny you?
      Did you know that to self insure if you have any health issues most likely will cost you about $700/mo. for a policy that has an out of pocket annual deductible of 10k?
      Did you know that many employers, particularly non-profits and small companies don’t provide their employees insurane as a benefit of employment?
      Should a kid who has cancer, and no insurance go get a job? And how exactly does that kid do that? Will you tell that kid that hes just going to have to die because he cant secure insurance?
      What happens when you lose your job because you become ill and can’t work? You lose your insurance…that is unless you can cover the COBRA costs, which look much like that 700 a month for major medical.
      People who are at the poverty level aren’t degenerates, they are simply poor. Being poor is not a crime.

  • Arnold

    Everything people are tryin to work for get the fuck off ur high hours and stand with the people

  • Wendy

    To hear the judgments cast on those without insurance is troubling. We who are aupposed to be a compassionate Christian bunch are often the most cruel in our harshness. One ER visit costs thousands of dollars. One person trying to recover from a car crash she didn’t cause which left her as a paraplegic without access to health care insurance for things like catheter supplies, etc. A specialized wheelchair costs more than a car. It is NOT laziness that places these people in situations where they find themselves without. It is LIFE. Please try to see people. And let compassion work on your heart.

    • Brittany

      Wendy, it was very refreshing to read your comment. Thank you for your kind words. I couldn’t have put it in better words myself!

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