Thursday, September 25, 2014


by Paul Gibbs

Over the course of the Medicaid expansion/Healthy Utah debate, I've heard a lot of talk of patriotism and "government tyranny". Whether it's Mike Kennedy calling the government a schoolyard bully, or Jacob Anderegg going off an embarrassing speech about the Boston Tea Party which included every right-wing slogan but "America, love it or leave it", expansion opponents never tire of flaunting their supposed patriotism and their similarity to the founding fathers, who apparently stood and said "No'" when King George tried to offer the colonists health care in return for the taxes they were already paying.  But their premise, like every other part of their ideological opposition to Medicaid expansion, is inherently, fatally flawed.

"Government tyranny" does not consist solely of levying taxes. And it does not exist solely on the federal level.  Is it tyranny for the federal government to allow the states to take back their own tax money to care for their own people? To pay 100% of that for the first three years, then 90% thereafter? Or is it tyranny for the Utah legislature to ignore the voices of the majority of its own citizens and refuse to let our tax dollars be used to help us? I see a legislature that is ignore the needs of the people who elected them, shrugging off the heart-breaking stories of those who are suffering and stopping short of saying "Let them eat cake" only because they'd want to be darn sure the cake wasn't paid for with federal tax money.

They want to ignore that those of us fighting for Medicaid expansion are not the government, not the "elite", and not even the dreaded "media". We're just citizens using our constitutional right to free speech to say this is wrong. We are the people of Utah. The people our government is supposed to be of, by and for, only in this case it's the people themselves who are in danger of perishing from the Earth. Despite the "evidence" of a ludicrous leading poll from the Sutherland Institute (a division of HYDRA), the credible evidence tells us that the people of Utah want the governor's plan. They want a voice in where their taxes go. They want to care for their fellow human beings. But their state government won't allow it because they don't like it, just like when George Washington . . . Uh, no, actually, that's the exact opposite of everything George Washington ever did. My bad.

In the case of Healthy Utah, "government tyranny" is real. It's alive and well, and there is a bully picking on those who appear weaker. But the bully is our state legislature, not the federal government. And we're not weak. We can and will continue to patriotically fight with the weapons the constitution gives us: free speech, and the right to vote. And if anything can be compared to the Boston Tea Party, it's events like the vigil we're holding on October 18 at the capitol, where Utahns can gather and say that we will not be bullied by our own state government. They work for us, not the other way around.

Monday, September 22, 2014


by Paul Gibbs

I feel like I've both asked a lot and asked very little of you. I've asked a lot in the sense that I keep asking for the same thing over and over and over again. I've asked very little in that all I want is for people to write an email. make a phone call, or show up to an event. I know nobody likes doing these things. I certainly don't. But I'm going to have to ask again.

We're heading into the home stretch on Medicaid expansion/ Healthy Utah, with Governor Herbert and the federal government just weeks away from an agreement, putting the Governor in a position to possibly call a special legislative session. And because the momentum we've gained, opponents are throwing everything they have at us. Truth, logic and human decency are forgotten as we see flimsy studies, manipulative polls, and House Speaker Becky Lockhart insisting there are "Other options" (does she mean the awful plan the House floated in January?). As much as this should have been a slam-dunk almost two years ago, it's still going to be very difficult to get past the ideological extremists who are against this.

The first thing we need to do is show the public, the media and the legislature that the Sutherland Institute is dead wrong, and Utah wants expansion. We can do this by writing more emails and making more phone.calls than ever before. By writing more letters to the editor of the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News. And by attending the Medicaid expansion/Healthy Utah Vigil I'm organizing at the State Capitol on Saturday,Octobed 18 at 7pm on the south steps (See? I have to organizs it? I'm just asking you to be there). This event will be held in conjuctions with similar rallies the same night in many of the other states which have not yet expanded Medicaid.

The coming weeks will be huge in influencing the future of Healthy Utah. Please step up and help make it happen. Because you can be all too sure the other side will step up to try and stop it.

Thursday, September 18, 2014


by Paul Gibbs

There are a few things you can always count on in life, and perhaps chief among them is that the Sutherland Institute will always find a way to bring their standards of integrity even lower. And their latest poll, which shows support for Healthy Utah at a mere 17%, is quite an achievement. In a way I almost admire it. It takes real work and ingenuity to find a way to conduct a poll this biased, this utterly skewed in its approach and methodology. The Sutherland Institute is, of course, a Utah based right-wing think tank dedicated to the proposition that you can call yourself a "think tank" even if there is no actual thinking involved. No matter what mainstream polls and data shows, they have an uncanny ability to produce "evidence" to the contrary which supports their point of view.

Unlike the polls comissioned by organizations like Voices For Utah Children (which supports Healthy Utah) and Utah Policy (which is neutral), Sutherland's poll makes frequent use of the politically charged term "Obamacare". In fact, the term is used 24 times. Considering the President's lack of popularity in Utah, the stories of "death panels" and other outrageous claims associated with Obamacare and the finding from the Utah Policy poll that 46% of Utahns aren't familiar with Healthy Utah until it is explained to them, can there be any legitimate doubt that the near constant use of the politically charged term colored perceptions in the poll? Voices For Utah Children and Utah Policy both found overwhelming support for Healthy Utah when the program was explained (in politically neutral terms). Sutherland found that if you use an inflammatory term, you can scare people away.

This is the way the Sutherland Institute operates. Apparently their traditional conservative values don't include honesty, integrity, or fairness. Like the study by Federalism in Action, this flies in the face of.all previous research because it's biased, shady, and unworthy of consideration. The big bad federal government has done exactly what detractors secretly feared it would do: they put people ahead of politics to reach a compromise and bring healthcare to 77,000 needy Utah citizens. Healthy Utah has more momentum than ever before, and its opponents know it. And they'll drag out whatever outrageous claims it takes to slow the momentum down. Don't let them.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


by Paul Gibbs

The op-ed by Healthy Utah opponent J. Scott Moody in today's Deseret News would actually be quite funny if so many lives weren't on the line. Moody repeats the same old drivel about why Medicaid expansion is bad for our state, but this time he does it with a study by a right-wing group called the Federalism In Action Project, which he calls "definitive."  Oh, I get it: the multiple other studies which included partnerships with respectable, neutral organizations like Dan Jones & Associates weren't definitive, because they didn't reach the conclusion he wanted them to. This opens up a whole new world for me. My past is full of things which didn't turn out the way I wanted. But it turns out those results weren't definitive, because I don't like them. In fact, I never should have gotten that kidney transplant, I should have just waited for the definitive diagnosis which said two aspirin would have made me feel better.

The most glaring error in Moody's op-ed has been corrected, but it's still indicative of the sloppiness of the entire undertaking: he quoted Governor Herbert as claiming that Healthy Utah will cost $258 billion in the first year. The actually number is $258 million, with an M. That's a big difference. As my brother Christian put it, 258 million seconds is roughly 8 years. 258 billion seconds is roughly 8,000 years. We're talking about a monumental disparity of numbers here. And even if we are to dismiss this as a typo, it's far from the only problem with Moody's article. There is no evidence whatsoever to support his ideas of reduced household incomes in any of the studies commissioned by the state or anyone else except the one cited by Moody. The article is partisan, poorly researched, and just flat out wrong.

Second, Moody seems to utterly ignore, as all opponents of expansion do, that this is made up of money already going out in Utah taxes. It comes back here, or it goes somewhere else. But we keep paying them either way. How is this not relevant to discussing the cost of the program? Oh, I see. I missed his use of the term "redistributing", which is code for "communism". That's how we know it's evil.

Third, Moody says "you don't need a Phd in economics" to see his point. That's probably why none of the Phd's who've studied it have come to conclusions remotely matching his. Moody himself makes no mention of his education in his credentials. Why do you suppose that is? Does he have the education to be qualified as a credible economist? I honestly have no idea. But I know I'm going to trust multiple Phds over one guy who won't tell me what his qualifications are or are not.

Fourth, Moody utterly ignores the impact not passing Healthy Utah will have on the poor and sick. Isn't that relevant? Are studies like the one by Harvard Medical School which says 316 Utahns per year will die without expansion kind of an important part of the debate? Or was that study not definitive because it had too many Phds behind it?

Opponents of Medicaid expansion and Healthy Utah continue to impugn and attack those who are coming up with the real numbers, tossing out the Obamacare boogeyman as if mentioning the name of a president who is unpopular in our state cancels out legitimate research by qualified experts. They flaunt their own lack of qualifications to show they're just regular folks. But they're not. Regular folks don't make a living distributing bogus studies which are called "non-partisan" while flaunting their partisan ideology in the name of the organization itself. Regular folks work jobs which pay too little and don't offer them health coverage, and they get sick, and without healthcare, they die. The real effect of Medicaid expansion or Healthy Utah is that this won't be true. And I'm praying for the day when I have to make that correction in my opinion piece.

Monday, September 15, 2014


by Paul Gibbs

Okay, Utah's Mike Kennedy may have to settle for second place in the competition to see who can make the most outrageous Medicaid related statement this year. In fact, Utah seems to have lost out to (incredibly) a state which has already accepted Medicaid expansion.

Russell Pearce, former Arizona GOP Vice Chair, said on his radio show just this weekend:

“You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I’d do is get Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligations, Then we’ll test recipients for drugs and alcohol, and if you want to [reproduce] or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job.”

Wow. Even after getting involved in the Medicaid expansion issue in three different states and hearing a shocking amount of hateful rhetoric aimed at the poor and needy, this one manages to shock and sicken me. This was stated by an actual person in 2014, not the antagonist of a Charles Dickens novel. Thankfully there was enough uproar to force Pearce to resign (after accusing the liberal media of the ghastly sin of repeating what he said and assuming that a party Vice Chair speaks for his party). but that doesn't change the fact that it was said in the first place. He did not apologize or say that there was anything wrong with these words or sentiments. He just blamed the media.

I've heard proponents of the idea that "Class Warfare" is being waged against the wealthy say that the wealthy are being made into "The new Nazis." I find this to be one of the most absurd things I've ever heard. But I can't help but feel that the things I keep hearing said about those who need and use public assistance are sometimes awfully similar to the propaganda the Nazis sometimes used against those segments of society they wanted to devalue. Oh, I know Nazi comparisons are ridiculously overused and almost always hyperbolic. It's become almost off limits to make the comparison (though saying that anybody who doesn't idealize making the rich richer is a communist seems to still be perfectly acceptable). But really, when a politician starts talking about forced sterilizations, I don't think I can be blamed for going there. No, I'm not suggesting the Republican Party is like the Nazis. If I thought that I wouldn't have any conservative friends, and I have a lot  of conservative friends. I'm saying that Russell Pearce seems to have taken the anti-poor people ideas a lot of his party is promoting and taken it to an extreme which does seem worthy of comparison. And that sort of extremism starts out smaller, and if it isn't stamped out, it grows.

I just can't understand it. I can't wrap my head around the idea that hating and vilifying people for not having money seems to be such a widespread concept in our society today. Literally every day I hear some sort of attack on the needy, and each day I feel like more and more of my soul is dying because of it. What is moral, Christian, American, responsible or acceptable about this? How did we get here? It's not even confined to conservatives. When Pearce gets to his remarks about those who receive food assistance, he gets more to the sorts of arguments I sometimes even hear from moderates and liberals:

“No cash for Ding Dongs and Ho Hos, you’d only get money for 15-pound bags of rice and beans, blocks of cheese and powdered milk – all the powdered milk you can haul away. If you want a steak or frozen pizza, then you’d have to get a job.”

I don't know how much evidence there has to be that they majority of people seeking help have jobs before people listen. I don't know what it will take before reason and decency make us stop seeing poverty as a sin. I'm not sure I know any way to fight this kind of ignorance but to keep speaking the truth: that you cannot hate and your brothers and sisters for being poor and still claim the moral high gound.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


by Paul Gibbs

Governor Herbert's announcement yesterday that he and the federal government had reached a "conceptual agreement" on Healthy Utah is big news. Big to all of us who have been fighting for it. Certainly to those who need it to get healthcare that will save their lives or quality of life. The much-maligned federal government has proven they care enough about the people of Utah to compromise and reach a solution. It's up to our legislature to do the same.

True, we have not yet seen the details of this agreement. But we know that it is satisfactory to both the Obama administration and our governor's office, and in our current political age it's never short of amazing when parties on opposite sides of the fence reach any sort of agreement. We do need to see details, of course, but there is every reason to be encouraged. And it is absolutely time for all those who want a solution to Utah's coverage gap issue to come together. We stll have a huge battle ahead of us in trying to get this past legislators like Allen Christensen who makes a blanket stand that "takng federal money is wrong", or Mike Kennedy, who stated with a straight face that sometimes access to healthcare kills people.  We have to stand united for the best chance we have. And it's a better chance than ever before.

The failed efforts of Virgina governor Terry McAuliffe to stand against a partisan legislature and unilaterally expand Medicaid highlight how wrong it is now to keep insisting the governor should (or even can) still take the full expansion. That ship hasn't just sailed, it's docked in its port of destination. We'll get our chance to register our displeasure with Herbert's previous indecision at the next election. For right now we're on the same side, and to refuse to accept that is to stand in the way of healthcare for tens of thousands of Utahns. I'm begging all those who believe the poor deserve healthcare: stand together.  We have a chance to put pressure on the the legislature like never before. Let's do it.

And to our legislature and any others in opposition: the facts are in. The people of Utah agree, and the compromise has been made. Will you continue to stand in the way of saving lives just to hold your ideological ground and score political points with the farthest of the far right? Or will you finally serve those you were elected to serve? Will you be statesmen, or mere politicans?

We're on the brink of writing a major chapter in the history of this state. I sincerely and fervently pray that will all do our part to write it well.

Monday, September 8, 2014


by Paul Gibbs

It seems to me that every time I or one of the other Utah Medicaid expansion/Healthy Utah activists ask people to contact legislators, there is a least one person responding that doing so won't make a difference. Utah legislators don't listen. Letter writing doesn't work. Protests don't work. There's no point in doing any of this.

I certainly understand people getting frustrated with the Utah legislature. Anybody who has been working on this issue does. We've been going to their meetings and dealing with them face to face, flabbergasted by their seeming inability to grasp the obvious and to draw the same conclusions from facts and testimony as everyone else in the room. At times it feels like we're trying to get through the thick skull of Homer Simpson. Then at other times it becomes clear that they're actually going to great effort to be this obtuse. They don't get it because they don't want to.

Yet I refuse to give in to the temptation to say there is no point in this. One reason is that I have seen a subtle but unmistakable change in recent months as polls show Utah's support for a form of expansion, and as the heartbreaking stories of people in the gap are presented to the public, the media and the legislators themselves.  Back in May, Senator Allen Christensen questioned if the people in the gap even exist. Nobody is questioning that now.

When I first decided to make Entitled to Life, it was because I was distraught by the fact that I and others who told our stories at a town meeting had only been able to tell our stories to a few dozen people and 6 sympathetic legislators. Instead of giving into discouragement I made the film, and because of if we've been able to tell those stories to thousands of people. I was invited to share a portion with a larger group of legislators who needed to see it. And then invited to tell the stories of people who need help in other states.  And that happened because I said "I don't know if this will accomplish anything, but 'd rather try than not try."

And I am far from the only one who has said that. From my friends in the gap to the activists to our supporters in the legislature, we've kept fighting despite having better reason that anyone to feel discouraged. And every time one person joins the fight by writing a letter or attending a rally, it just gets that much better. Every activist campaign in American history has had to deal with cynics who said this wouldn't work. And every major step forward for the American people has come because of those who cared too much to listen.

Nobody knows better than we do how hard it is to get Utah lawmakers to listen. But we also know that enough public outcry can make them feel they need to protect their jobs. Public outcry caused our conservative Governor to veto abstinence only sex education. And it's made our legislature finally allow us to be heard. And yes, I do believe eventually it will win this fight. If someone wants to say "Letter writing and protests don't work, I have a better idea" I'll be more than happy to listen and.most likely try their approach (in addition to letter writing and protests). But I have yet to hear a naysayer do that. All I've seen is people making an excuse to do nothing, suggesting those of us who fight are naive because it allows them to somehow feel their apathy makes them superior. But when we see people suffering, we know it isn't because we didn't try to help them. And when we see them getting healthcare, we'll know it's because we did.

Trying to make a difference can be slow, frustrating and discouraging. But if people don't try, nothing happens, guaranteed. I'm going to keep being one of the people who tries, now matter how many tears, sleepless nights, bad dreams, panic attacks or heartbreaks it causes me. How about you?

Friday, September 5, 2014


by Paul Gibbs

I was deeply disturbed by a post I read today from Bob Bernick of Bernick discusses (among other things) the increasingly unlikely possibility of passing Healthy Utah before the end of 2014. As much as I'm unwilling to give up on a special session, I have to admit I'm not expecting it to happen at this point. It was this line that truly set me on edge:

"Utah has gone through much of 2014 without Medicaid expansion, and admittedly thousands of poorer Utahns have endured no health care insurance.
Perhaps harsh to say, but what will a few more months mean?
Utahns in general don’t seem much worried about Medicaid expansion, even if some poor, ill folks are suffering."
Can it really be true that Utahns don't care? Admittedly I've seen some appalling callousness from some Utahns (especially legislators) on this issue over the past year. And I very much believe that the  the modern conservative ideology which is so dominant in Utah politics idealizes not caring about our fellow human beings, which is why I stopped considering myself a conservative long ago. But I also believe that this sort of disregard for the lives and welfare of others is fundamentally incompatible with the religious beliefs I share with so many of my fellow Utahns. I've lived in this state almost my entire life, and I've seen too much good to easily believe this state which values family so much and is so concerned about morality just doesn't care if "some poor, ill folks are suffering.". In my mind, nothing could be less moral than that.
So, do I have to drop my idea that we as state have conscience? As frustrated as I often get with the state of politics in Utah, I'm not ready to do that. 84% of even "Very Conservative" Utahns support Healthy Utah,m according to a poll by Dan Jones and Associates. That doesn't sound to me like not caring. It sounds to me like, at least to some extent, the basic morality of this issue crosses party and ideological lines. having recently spoken with clergy from multiple religions for Entitled to Life Part II, I know it crosses religious lines. I think the issue isn't that Utahns don't care, it's that they aren't taking the time to do something about it. They feel bad, but they'd rather shrug it off and think about something more pleasant. But it is not moral to ignore the ills of the world to insulate ourselves and feel "warn fuzzies" at the expense of others. We have to be aware of the world around us, and do what we can to make it better. I won't accept that we're so afraid of steeping out of our comfort zones that we'll let people go without healthcare.
I realize that most people who read this have probably already contacted legislators. Do it again. We need to make them feel constant pressure to get this done. Show them that Utahns do care. Because if we don't care, the state I grew up in, my family's home for generations, no longer exists.

Email addresses:
House Speaker Becky Lockhart:

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser:

Senator Allen Christensen:

Rep. Jim Dunnigan:

Thursday, September 4, 2014


by Paul Gibbs

At the recent August meeting of the Utah Healthcare Reform Task Force, we learned that the final stumbling block left to the federal government accepting the terms of Governor Herbert's Healthy Utah plan is the work requirement, a provision which demands that those who receive assistance from the program are working or attempting to work. The federal government not only disapproves of the requitement, they claim it's illegal.

So, where do we go from here? Do we keep arguing? Do we walk away and let tens of thousands of people go without healthcare because of one point? When we examine the facts, it becomes clear that the only sensible.option is to abandon a requirement which was already unnecessary. Studies of the coverage gap already tell us that 66% of those in the gap are working, and most of the rest can't. Do we think those who are working will suddenly stop because they have health insurance? Of course not. They have to pay rent, utilities, and other basic necessities. They'll simply be healthier. And some of those who can't work now may find they can if they're getting the healthcare they need.

The last thing we need is another delay. Let Healthy Utah go without the unnecessary amd judgemental work requirement, and let's let out legislature know we want it passed noe.