Healthy Utah would help working parents

23 April 2015 Written by  

This op-ed by Lincoln Nehring of Voices for Utah Children was originally published in the Salt Lake Tribune on April 23, 2015.


s Crystal 1 smallThe 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.

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.