The Healthy Utah Debate Goes into Overtime

16 March 2015 Written by  

The 2015 Utah legislative session ended on Thursday but the work continues for advocates of health care coverage for Utah's working poor. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that "the House refused to accept Herbert's plan and stuck with a vastly inferior — more expensive, less beneficial — alternative that was unjustly called Utah Cares. On the last day of the session, Herbert and legislative leaders announced an agreement to talk some more and, they promise, come to a deal by the end of July. For the thousands of Utahns who are still waiting for this basic aspect of 21st century civilization to be made available to them, it will be about time." Editorial: Utah Legislature: Historic and all too familiar

A poll sponsored by UtahPolicy.comHealthy-Utah-vs-Utah-Cares-poll found that by a large margin, Utahns favored Healthy Utah over Utah Cares, but at least until July, Utah will continue to do nothing to help Utahns in the coverage gap. Doing nothing was the least popular option among Utah voters.

Governor Gary Herbert has announced that an all-Republican task force that will work toward a compromise by July 31, 2015. At that time, the governor will call the legislature to a special session to vote again on extending health care coverage to Utah's low-income poor. The task force will consist of himself, Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser (R-Sandy), Speaker of the House Greg Hughes (R-Draper), Senator Brian Shiozawa (R-Cottonwood Heights) and House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan (R-Taylorsville). 

It's not over yet, so keep contacting your legislators to express your support for Healthy Utah!

The following op-ed by Lincoln Nehring, Senior Health Policy Analyst of Voices for Utah Children, was originally published in the Salt Lake Tribune on February 25, 2015. See the original here.

Healthy Utah would help working parents

The Utah Legislature is currently considering whether or not to pass legislation to allow Gov. Gary Herbert's Healthy Utah or a similar plan to move forward and improve affordable coverage options for parents and other adults in our state. It has been well documented that moving forward with the plan would be good for the state's health care system and the state budget. However, there hasn't been much focus on how the Healthy Utah plan would also be good for Utah's children and working families.

Many, including Rep. Dan McCay in his recent opinion piece, "Healthy Utah throws in the towel to poverty," assume that the vast majority of Utahns to be covered by Healthy Utah are unemployed childless adults.

The fact is uninsured parents account for over one third of the population potentially eligible for health coverage if Utah expands Medicaid. Of those eligible parents, more than two-thirds are working, according to a new report that Voices for Utah Children just released with the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. These uninsured parents are working in jobs as varied as cooks, waitresses, cashiers and carpenters.

Some, like Rep. McCay, may be surprised to learn that so many working parents are not insured. To understand why, it's important to understand the limits of Utah's Medicaid program. Currently, parents in a family of three whose income is $750 per month or more are considered to be too wealthy to qualify for Medicaid coverage. Unfortunately, parents at that income level also earn too little to qualify for assistance in buying insurance through the new Marketplace at That's why so many of Utah's working families are falling through the cracks and being left without the health insurance they need to support their families and care for their children.

Working parents would receive significant help with health insurance costs if the Utah Legislature approved the governor's Healthy Utah plan. Covering parents is good for kids. When parents don't have to worry about unpaid medical bills piling up, they can take better care of their own health, become more financially secure and devote more time to making sure their children are getting the care they need to succeed. The Healthy Utah plan is a good deal for our state and for working families.

Voices for Utah Children works to make Utah a place where all children thrive. We start with one basic question: "Is it good for kids?"

lugu-isolatedPolicies affect children—but children don’t vote. At Voices for Utah Children, we raise our voices on behalf of children, informing policymakers that government can and should act to keep kids safe and help them succeed. A Love Utah Give Utah gift to Voices for Utah Children will help us ensure that all Utah children are able to reach their full potential in life and contribute to Utah’s future prosperity. Learn more:

Sara Face Shot BetterSara Gunderson, Office Manager and Executive Assistant, joined the organization in 2007. She has extensive administrative experience, including more than eight years in development at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center. Sara received her BS in Psychology at the University of Utah with a coursework emphasis in infant and child development.