Friday, August 29, 2014


by Paul Gibbs

Since getting involved with the campaign for Medicaid expansion/Healthy Utah, I've heard a lot of what I'll be kind and call spurious arguments from its opponents. Each month the concerns stated by opponents in the Utah Health Reform Task Force in their meeting get more surprising and outrageous. But yesterday, Rep. Mike Kennedy from Alpine made a statement which if I didn't know better I would swear came from Steve Carell's Anchorman character:

Sometimes access to health care can be damaging and dangerous. And it’s a perspective for the [Legislative] body to consider is that, I’ve heard from National Institutes of Health and otherwise that we’re killing up to a million, a million and a half people every year in our hospitals. And it’s access to hospitals that’s killing those people.”

Oh, okay. Now I understand. Our legislature is denying people health care to save their lives. That's very noble of them. As long as we're going in that direction, let's take seat belts out of cars, because one time my Uncle got in car accident and was actually saved by not wearing his seat belt. And actually, why don't we eliminate marriage? Sometime marriage leads to divorce.

Joking aside, the flaws in Kennedy's reasoning here are patently obvious. Even if Kennedy were siting actual, credible evidence and numbers rather than what amounts to little more than vague anecdotal speculation, his number of "up to a million" fails to recognize that, according to a report by the American Hospital Association, 133 million people per year are treated in emergency rooms alone. So, if we were to go by that figure, less than one percent of the people treated in Emergency Rooms encounter these sorts of accidents. LESS THAN ONE PERCENT. And that doesn't even take into account the fact that  a 2013 study sited in The Journal of Patient Safety puts the number of people harmed by medical errors to be between 210,000 and 440,000, which even I as a mathematically challenged person know is way less than a million.

Dr. Kyle Jones, who was speaking in favor of Healthy Utah, offered this response to Kennedy:

 “There are millions more that are helped by that. It’s important to keep in mind that while there are risks it’s important to keep in mind that the benefits outweigh them.”

When I went through my kidney transplant ordeal, I was very well educated on the risks involved. Ever person I've met who suffers from serious illness is aware of these risks. We also know that going without care more or less guarantees we'll die. So, Rep/ Kennedy, with all due respect, thanks for looking out for us, but we'll go ahead and take the risk of seeing a doctor.

Friday, August 15, 2014


by Paul Gibbs

In the coming weeks we have two great opportunities to show our support for Medicaid expansion/Healthy Utah, and we need people there to show how much Utah wants and needs this.

The first is the Thursday, August 28 meeting of the Utah Healthcare Reform Task Force . For the 11th time, Medicaid expansion will be on the agenda. Once again there will be people in the coverage gap telling their stories. This time they will include Charlotte Lawrence, one of the people who inspired me to make Entitled to Life in the first place, and who will be featured in Entitled to Life Part II. Her story is among the mot powerful I've heard, and it completely shatters the stereotypes of the "takers" in the coverage gap. The meeting begins at 9am at the House Building at the state capitol.

The second is an event sponsored by Organizing For Action at the Taylorsville Library at 4870 S. 2700 W.,  on Friday, August 29 at 4:30pm. The 7 minute version of Entitled to Life , and various speakers will talk about what we can do to make this happen, and give you information to contact legislators. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend as originally planned and introduce the film, as I'll be on a flight North Carolina at the time.

Please consider attending one or both of these events to show your support.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Written by Paul Gibbs

Like so many other people, I was devastated by the death of beloved comedian/actor Robin Williams. I felt a very personal connection to his work, and it was very much like losing an old friend. This was especially true because, while as we know Williams suffered from depression, his work was crucial to helping me control my own depression. I was diagnosed with clinical depression 20 years ago, though I don't generally talk about it. Williams' performance as Peter Pan in Steven Spielberg's Hook is something I draw upon to battle depression by looking for a "Happy Thought" (my brother even brought a Hook poster to hang in my hospital room after my surgeries). I even imagine myself as Williams when using this technique. In and of itself this wouldn't be enough to keep me going, but it has helped me through some very dark and difficult times, and it will continue to do so. I'll always carry that with me, and I'll always be incredibly grateful to Robin Williams and Peter Pan for helping me fight my depression. I wish he knew what he did for me. That there was some way I could tell him.

Like any other illness, depression and other mental illnesses require proper care and treatment. At times I've gone untreated because I didn't have insurance and the medications aren't cheap. And at times I've resisted the medications due to the stigma associated with them. I've often been afraid to tell my closest friends about my depression, and sometimes when I did I ended up really wishing I hadn't. So I resisted taking the medicines that could prevent me from feeling utterly hopeless and unable to deal with life. I hate it when people refer to them as "happy pills". They don't make you happy. They don't even stop you from feeling sad. At no point have I ever experienced any of the numbness or loss of feeling I hear some people attribute to these medicines, and I tend to be a lot more creative when I am taking them and my depression isn't getting the best of me.

 I also suffer from agoraphobia and panic disorder. These first developed from the my extensive experience with surgeries and other medical issues in my early childhood. While those issues are largely under control, I still tend to have inexplicable feelings of dread about leaving my house every morning. This one is harder to talk about than depression, because even fewer people understand it.

Now, imagine mixing the stigma against mental illness with the stigma against being poor and needing help. Mental illness and substance abuse are among the most common issues facing people in Utah's coverage gap, and without Healthy Utah,  according to Mayor Ben McAdmas and the county council,  Utah Salt Lake County will no longer be able to provide help for roughly 3,200 people. For these people, just being able to get treatment is their happy thought. I keep seeing people telling those who need help to ask for it. How can they ask for help that isn't there? We've just seen how hard these illnesses can hit someone who does have the resources to seek help. I'm horrified to imagine how someone with no resources would try to fight them.

It's usp to us to help these people by making Healthy Utah happen. As Robin Williams said himself,  "No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world."

Sunday, August 10, 2014


by Paul Gibbs

In an August 10 op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune, former Representative Karen Shepard made the case for implementing Healthy Utah. It was a thoughtful, well-written article which incorporated all of the strengths of our position: facts, logic, and an appeal to decency. I was saddened to quickly see that most of the reader comments were critical of her position, not because they were against expansion, but because they were against the compromise of Healthy Utah. Rather than offering constructive ideas or solutions for making this happen, they merely took shots at Governor Gary Herbert.
In some of my recent posts I've come down pretty hard on conservatives who oppose expansion or Healthy Utah. This time my frustration is with liberal opposition. Anger or opposition directed at Governor Herbert is, in this instance, misplaced. He's not the opposition. Yes, I wish he had accepted full expansion when it was in his hands. He didn't. That's over. We can't change it. The issue now is convincing the legislature, not the Governor. This is a legislature which has repeatedly rejected full expansion, and is (in many cases) fighting tooth and nail against Healthy Utah. Getting anything past them is a serious challenge, but Healthy Utah is our best shot. We're not choosing between Healthy Utah and full expansion. We're choosing between Healthy Utah and doing nothing. Those of us who are out there fighting for this every day have enough stubborn, ideological opposition on the right. Giving it to us from the left does nothing but decrease or at least slow down our chances of helping anybody who is suffering in the coverage gap. The fact that you held out for what you thought was the best option isn't going to comfort a person who dies without healthcare because the proponents of closing the coverage gap were arguing amongst themselves. And it really bothers me to see Utah heroes who are doing all they can to fight for the people of our state criticized by people whose idea of activism is leaving anonymous snarky comments on a website.

Just as this issue isn't about whether or not people like Barack Obama, it isn't about whether or not they like Gary Herbert. Healthy Utah will bring as much money back to Utah and and cover as many people as full Medicaid expansion.  What we need now is to bring the money here and get people insured.

But, for those who absolutely can't bring themselves to support Healthy Utah, there is an option: a huge change in the make up of our legislature. But that's not going to happen easily. Are those who won't "settle" for Healthy Utah willing to go out there and throw themselves into campaigns they way we're throwing ourselves into the fight for Healthy Utah? If so, that's wonderful, I welcome their criticisms. If not, I hope they'll put some serious thought into whether they want to be a part of the problem or the solution.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


by Paul Gibbs

Back in May, just as I finished editing Entitled to Life, I came across an email from about $500 grants available for promoting Medicaid expansion in your home state. I sent them the YouTube link and told them I wanted to do more interviews. Instead of giving me the $500 to do more interviews in Utah, they've offered $3,500 to go to two other states and make films which highlight the plight of their citizens in the coverage gap, just as we did in Utah with the original Entitled to Life.

The first state will be North Carolina, and we'll be there filming over Labor Day weekend. I'm very excited about this opportunity to help people in some of the poor southern states which are suffering worst from their decisions not to accept Medicaid expansion funding.

While the grant from MoveOn will cover most of our expenses, we'll be scraping to get two films in separate states made with that. In order to bring the budget up just a little, we've started a Kickstarter. If you can afford to and would like, to please take a look and see if you can help. All of the money will go into production. I won't be making any money myself.

We're also jumping right into production an Entitled to Life, Part II here in Utah. We'll be interviewing more people in the coverage gap, as well as medical professionals and religious leaders who support Healthy Utah. We'll keep putting the word out there until it has well and truly been heard.

Monday, August 4, 2014


by Paul Gibbs

So you've already done the things from my last list? Well, you haven't voted yet, because it's only August. But here are a few more things you can do:

The Salt Lake Tribune is looking for topics for their Town Hall meetings this fall. Email editor Terry Orme at and suggest the Medicaid expansion/Health Utah issue as a topic. This would provide another great forum for those in the gap to be heard, and to draw attention to the issue.

Many of the candidates who support expansion are underdogs. You can do more than just vote for them. Donate to their campaigns (even small donations help) or volunteer for their campaigns. You can find out how to support Democratic candidates you can go to  If you prefer to support a Republican candidate, look up Ray Ward of Bountiful.

Or donate or volunteer to Utah Health Policy Project, a great organization which is doing amazing work to help the people of Utah get the healthcare they need.

Suppose you're in a conversation with your weird uncle, some random kook or State Senator Allen Christensen and he's spouting off about how Medicaid expansion is government tyranny and will hurt the people of Utah, and you know he's wrong but you don't know enough about the issue to tell him why. Learn the detail by checking out Fact Sheets like these.

So there you go. Just a few more ways you can help support the cause and make Healthy Utah happen.