by Mark Miller
CEO, Mark Miller Companies
I’d like to share a few of my thoughts regarding Healthy Utah, Governor Herbert’s plan to expand Medicaid.
First, in my role as Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the University Hospital: I see patients being treated in our Emergency Department who should be cared for by their own doctor. This year, the U Hospital will spend over $100 million on unfunded/charity care. The U does not pay that bill; anyone who pays for healthcare sees higher premiums because of this transfer. Expanding Medicaid will allow these same patients to create a relationship with a primary care physician. Patients with ongoing health issues will be better able to work with their own physician to create a path to better health.
Second, as a taxpayer: Most of us are paying higher taxes to fund The Affordable Care Act. Currently, those dollars are going to neighboring states, which have accepted the expansion of Medicaid. Over the next 10 years, government studies indicate we will pay over $700 million in federal taxes, but if our Legislature does not pass Healthy Utah we won’t receive any benefits. Does that make any sense?
Third, as an employer: I see our employees struggling to pay for healthcare. The premiums seem to go up every year with no end in sight. Employees in entry-level jobs have no chance of affording healthcare for their families. So where do they go for health care? You guessed it, emergency rooms. Why do we pay an average of $1100 for those visits when a primary care physician could provide better, managed care for a far lower price?
Finally, as a Utah citizen: We pride ourselves on our volunteer spirit and our communities. How can we deny health care to over 138,000 of our friends and neighbors when we are already paying for the program? Without the expansion of Medicaid, Utahns at the lower end of the income scale (referred to as the federal poverty level) have no coverage. How can a single person making $11,000 per year ,or a family of four making $15,000, possibly afford health care? They can’t. So they end up waiting until a small problem becomes a big problem.
Several Legislators are concerned the Federal Government will not be able to pay for the expansion of Medicaid. I would suggest they take a look at the Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) program, a federal program that provides funds to hospitals to help pay for uncompensated care. Utah originally chose to not participate in the program. By the time we began to participate in the program our state had lost over $100 million federal dollars that could have benefited our most needy citizens. Should we make that mistake again?
Expanding Medicaid makes sense for every Utahn. Please urge your Legislator to get on board with Healthy Utah.