Healthy Utah protects taxpayers, provides coverage for low-income Utahns

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL HEALTHY UTAH PLAN

Joined by community, business and faith leaders, Gov. Gary Herbert rolled out the details on his Healthy Utah plan today. The governor’s remarks are included here along with a link to the full plan, which is an alternative to Medicaid expansion that will bring tax dollars Utahns are already paying to help those in our state living in poverty to have access to health care.

Here are the governor’s remarks:

Good morning and thank you for joining us today.

Over the past few days, I have spoken with Senate President Wayne Niederhauser and this morning I met with Speaker-elect Greg Hughes to discuss the Healthy Utah plan.

I also spoke about the plan yesterday with the co-chairs of the Health Reform Task Force, Sen. Allen Christensen and Rep. Jim Dunnigan.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and Dr. David Patton from the Dept. of Health, just concluded our presentation of the details of the Healthy Utah plan to the full Health Reform task force.

Before I make a few comments about the Healthy Utah plan and our path forward, I would like to acknowledge the group of supporters standing with me today. They are community and business leaders who understand the decision we face and who support the Healthy Utah plan as our best path forward.

I’d like to recognize:

  • First lady Jeanette HerbertScreen Shot 2014-12-05 at 11.13.57 AM
  • Gail Miller, Larry H. Miller Group of Companies
  • Bishop Gary E. Stevenson, Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • Bishop John C. Wester, Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake
  • Scott Anderson, President and CEO of Zions Bank
  • Dr. Vivian Lee, CEO of University of Utah Health Care
  • Dr. Charles Sorenson, President and CEO of Intermountain Healthcare
  • Lane Beattie, President and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber
  • Paul Mero, former president of the Sutherland Institute
  • Mark Bouchard, Senior Managing Director of CBRE
  • Pamela Atkinson, my advisor and an advocate for those in need
  • Jim Sorenson, chairman of the Sorenson Impact Fund
  • Rich Walje, Rocky Mountain Power
  • Adam Trupp (Troop), Utah Association of Counties
  • Greg Miller, Utah Jazz and Larry H. Miller Group of Companies
  • David Huntsman, Utah Huntsman Cancer Institute
  • Clint Ensign, Sinclair
  • Terry Buckner, The Buckner Company and chair of the Salt Lake Chamber
  • Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox

It is important to understand that the decision we face as a state is not a result of policies enacted here in Utah. The problem we are trying to solve comes as a result of a federal policy failure known as the Affordable Care Act.

While I continue to support efforts at the federal level to fix the ACA or to repeal and replace it, the simple fact is, Utah must deal with the realities of the law and make the best deal we can for ourselves.

The ACA has left approximately 62,000 Utahns living below the federal poverty level with no financial assistance to purchase health care. The people in this group earn less than $12,000 per year.

The people who would qualify are single mothers, they are low-income adults, they are families with children. Two out of every three of them are employed, many working more than one job to make ends meet. Of the other third, many are the medically frail, who have conditions that make it impossible for them to work. They are our neighbors, our friends and our family members.

Utahns are known for caring for the less fortunate among us. Turning a blind eye to those in need is not the Utah way.

While Utahns did not create this problem, we can and we must find a Utah solution. I believe the Healthy Utah plan is the right path forward.

The Healthy Utah plan meets the four criteria I laid ouy earlier this year:

  1. It respects the taxpayer by bringing back to our state economy taxes Utahns have already paid to provide health care for the most vulnerable citizens in our state.
  2. It supports private markets by using that money that would go into the federal Medicaid program to instead help low-income Utahns purchase private health insurance.
  3. It promotes individual responsibility by requiring that recipients pay premiums and copays and connecting them with an integrated work program that can ultimately reduce their dependency on public assistance.
  4. And it maximizes flexibility because, as a three-year pilot program, it does not lock us into a long-term, untested commitment with the federal government. The plan also protects our right to terminate the program if the federal government fails to meet its funding obligation.

Throughout this process it has become clear there is no perfect plan. Because we have to work within the restraints of a federal health care law, there is no way for Utah to craft a plan that would be as efficient, inexpensive or effective as if we were able to start from scratch. I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t get everything I wanted in the deal from the federal government.

But in the absence of the perfect deal, we should work toward the best deal possible… for those in need and for the taxpayer.

Today does not mark the end of our work. This is only the beginning. I look forward to working with members of the Legislature in the weeks ahead to improve on the plan where we can. We have all been elected to make difficult decisions, and I’m confident we can work together to do just that. I want members of the Legislature to understand that in me they have a partner who wants to work with them to meet our shared goal of helping Utahns who could use a hand and a partner who is determined to do it in a responsible manner.

You can read the full plan at healthy.utah.gov.

 

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