Thursday, October 30, 2014


by Paul Gibbs

The Foundation for Government Accountability's anti-Healthy Utah add campaign says that the proposed program "Undermines Utah values". Come again? Caring for our fellow human beings is against Utah values? Making use of our own tax dollars is against Utah values? Of how about this one: keeping families together is against Utah values? Take a look at the latest Entitled to Life video segment and see what I mean.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


by Paul Gibbs

I spent the last weekend in Florida, where I shot the second of the two Entitled to Life documentaries commissioned me to make for other states. Perhaps our most compelling and heartbreaking interview was with Terinda Furman, a woman in Naples who suffers from a debilitating case of lupus that gives her extreme sensitivity to sunlight. Terinda is a go-getter, a very hard working and motivated woman who has had to learn to live with a myriad of conditions (related to the lupus and otherwise) which render her unable to work. She has tried over and over again. Even taking tickets in a movie theater is beyond her physical abilities. Yet she was dropped from traditional Medicaid over a year ago, and now she and her partner Liz are forced scrimp and find any desperate way they can just to get Terinda her medication, let alone doctor visits. In one afternoon I came to love Terinda and Liz, and it's horrible to see what they're going through.

Upon touching down for a layover  in Denver, I checked my email and discovered that a fellow activist had sent me a link to a new website called, attacking Gov. Gary Herbert's imminent Medicaid expansion alternative, tossing around the word "Obamacare" as many times as possible, and throwing out the same old spurious and disproven horror stories about the effects of expansion. I assumed it came from the Sutherland Institute ("Our ignorance can beat up your knowledge"), but it turns out that it's from another right-wing "think tank" some of our more conservative legislator like to reference, the Foundation for Government Accountability (a group so prominent and respected that Wikipedia is considering deleting the entry on them because it isn't meet "general notability guidelines"). And guess where this "think tank" is located? That's right, Naples, Florida. So why is a group in one of the states most hardly hit by politicians stubborn ideological refusal to expand Medicaid (so much so that they needed a struggling filmmaker from Taylorsville, Utah to come across the country and help them fight for it) meddling in Utah politics? It's one thing for Sutherland to keep attacking this, they're local. But Florida think tanks and Forbes magazine? All desperatey flinging the same disproven points at us again? Why is defeating Healthy Utah suddenly a cause celebre of the disciples of Ebenezer Scrooge nationwide? The answer is funny, frightening, and simple: they're scared.

Healthy Utah is the biggest modification of Medicaid expansion allowed to any state so far. It demonstrates not only that the federal government is willing to negotiate and make serious compromises to make Medicaid expansion happen in states that need it, but that expanding within conservative principles is possible. It shows that a right wing governor can work together with the Obama administration to craft a compromise that makes both sides happy, and they can do it for the least politically acceptable of reasons: it's the right thing to do and people need it. This is a disaster for groups like the Foundation For Government accountability (people promoting letting human beings die to satisfy they're political ideology are talking abut "accountability?), whose whole purpose for existing is to promote the current gridlock that says conservatives and liberals must be mortal enemies, that all forms of government welfare cause every ill from dependence to bubonic plague, that if we allow this to happen then by thunder within a year's time dogs will be cats and vice versa. The worst enemy of hysteria is truth, and Healthy Utah is becoming a powerful truth that not only gives tens of thousands of people access to healthcare that can save their lives or quality of life, but shows we don't have to be at war with each other.

 I'm reminded of the film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (everything comes back to a movie with me, and very often it's Star Trek), wherein peace between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire is imminent, and those who cannot accept the idea of peace between them commit desperate acts of sabotage to keep them as enemies. But of course, it's a movie, so people (and aliens) of goodwill on both sides work together for the common good and the dastardly plot is foiled. Well, what's happening here isn't a movie, but I can't escape the similarities. Those who don't want see left and right work together and create a compromise that works for both AND helps the people are throwing everything they can at Healthy Utah now that it's so close to happening. Will we let that fear defeat us? Or is this worth fighting for? Especially when we're so close to winning? I think we all know the answer.

Friday, October 24, 2014


by Paul Gibbs

With Gov. Gary Herbert's announcement that negotiations with the federal government are essentially complete and there will be no special session, we now know that Healthy Utah will be on the table in the 2015 general legislative session. And we have word that members of the healthcare reform task force are planning to propose an alternative plan which would only cover a fraction of what Healthy Utah would. Realistically, full ACA Medicaid expansion isn't on the table. There is a better chance of Dwayne Johnson winning an Oscar than there is of the full expansion getting the approval of our legislature. To put it the only way I can, that sucks. But that's the way it is. The choice isn't between Healthy Utah and the best, it's between Healthy Utah and the worst.

What we're hearing some of the legislators want to do is present a plan that covers only the "medically frail", which is a small fraction of those in the gap. The legislature is right in thinking that these are the people most in need. They're wrong in thinking this will be an adequate solution. This ignores that many are unable to even get diagnosed as medically frail without coverage to see a doctor. It ignores the fact that that keeping people from getting preventative care will just cause more people to become medical frail. And it ignores those who work but and can't afford coverage but don't fall into the medically frail category. I give the legislators credit for agreeing the medically frail need coverage. It shows more compassion than I've sometimes given them credit for. But it's not enough, and it isn't likely to accomplish much in terms of keeping costs down, especially because it will mean getting less federal funding, or none at all.

Here's where we come in: the process of the waiver for Healthy Utah requires a 30 Day "Public Comment Period". I've been relentlessly pushing everyone to contact legislators since March, but during this 30 day period we have to go nuts with it. It goes without saying that I plan to take a very active role in this, but I'll say it anyway. I'll be launching a new element of the Entitled to Life campaign aimed at demonstrating the support of as wide a variety of average Utahns as possible. I'm going to need absolutely anyone who is willing to help me with that (though I won't be asking much of you).  We need to make enough noise that even the Sutherland Institute can't pretend we don't want this. If we make the legislature feel enough pressure, they WILL pass this. This will be our time to make a difference in the lives and health of tens of thousands of people, and we cannot pass it up or let it get away. There's too much at stake. Simple actions and just a tiny bit of courage will be enough.

Monday, October 20, 2014


by Paul Gibbs

According to an estimate by the Deseret News ,roughly 100 Utahns gathered at the state capitol on Saturday, October 18 for the Healthy Utah Vigil. I tried to get my own count at one point but was interupted, so I'll gladly accept theres. Like any event connected with the Healthy Utah/Medicaid expansion cause, it was a highly emotional one.

 The vigil came at the end of a rough week, where both the Sutherland Institute ("Dedicated to preserving 1952 since 1995") and Forbes magazine ran pieces attacking Healthy Utah. The piece I wrote rebutting Sutherland's ludicrous assertion that Healthy Utah discourages marriage is already the mostly widely read of my blog posts. I haven't written one addressing the Forbes piece because, frankly, it's all in my previous writings. They had nothing new to say, just sort of a greatest hits of fallacious arguments against the program. After these attacks, I wasn't sure I was emotionally ready for the vigil. Especially because I'd already gotten some criticism from people on my side who objected to individual aspects of the vigil. But that's okay. You can't get involved with politics and expect not to get any opposition, and that includes opposition from the people on your side.

But the vigil itself was exactly the mornful yet life affirming experience I had envisioned it being. Those in attendence represented a diverse cross-section of Utahns: Democrats, Republicans, Mormons, Catholics, Atheists, Unitarian Universalists, various races and orientations. What we had in that we're Utahns, and that we wants to help those among us who are most vulnerable.

The speakers shared poignant, heartbreaking and inspiring messages. Dr. David Sundwall brought home the message that this isn't a partisan issue by pointing out that he's "a card carrying Republican." He even had the courage to defend one of the staunchest opponents of any form of expansion, Sen. Allen Christensen as "a good man", while disagreeing with him on the issue and pointing out that he's seen.first hand that charity care (which Christensen insists is enough to solve the problem) can't do it alone. This was a difficult and thought-provoking part of the evening for me:  while my first impressions of Christensen were of a friendly and affable guy, his harsh words and refusal to listen have made me come to think of him almost as a comic book supervillain. It's probably good for me to be reminded that, while I strongly believe the ideas and actions of out opponents are immoral, they aren't necessarily bad people, just people being mislead by some very bad ideas.

Arielle Spanville of USARA (Utah Support Advocates for Recovery Awareness) spoke on behalf of some the most commonly marginalized people in the gap, those who suffer from mental illnesses or substance abuse issues. As she pointed out, "it's easier to get heroin in Salt Lake and Utah Counties than to get access to health care.:

The other two speakers were from the coverage gap: Stacy Davis-Stanford spoke about the difficulty of being disabled but not being able to afford to get the diagnosis which would make her qualify for disability coverage, and Melanie Soules, who has managed to get coverage, spoke of how Healthy Utah would have allowed her to get coverage much sooner and lessen the permanent effects of the illness she has now overcome. Both speeches were heartfelt and brought me to tears.

We also premiered a music video about those who are suffering and the need for Healthy Utah:  , "An American Plea".

Two days after the vigil, I have mixed feelings. It was a wonderful. moving, life affirming event. It gave us a chance to mourn and to express hope. But things haven't changed yet. I'm tired of being thanked when I feel like I haven't done anything. I don't know if I've even changed one person's mind. I hope that the spirit of what we did on Saturday will carry over to the legislature in January, and compassion will finally win out. I hope more people will be moved to action to make it happen.

Friday, October 17, 2014


by Paul Gibbs

Sometimes I have a hard time coming up with new angles to address the issue of Medicaid expansion/Healthy Utah, and have difficulty updating this blog because of it. That's why I'm grateful for the Sutherland Institute (motto: "Facts? We don't need no stinking facts."). Every time they lose traction on their previous specious arguments against accepting the federal funds, they dig down deep and come up with something even less genuine that will play to conservative fears. This time (because they're still working on an explanation for how Healthy Utah would spread Ebola) they're trying to protect that favorite battleground of Utah conservatives, marriage.

The argument made is really just a variation of the old "dependence" argument made by hard core conservatives against any form of government sponsored help for the poor. They're saying now that Medicaid expansion (or Healthy Utah, which is the only real option currently under consideration) will cause men to delay getting married because they'll be afraid of losing their eligibility. This is absurd for a number of obvious reasons: being married won't exclude people from Healthy Utah eligibility. And if their income level rises high enough from marriage that they no longer qualify for Healthy Utah, but don't get insurance from either spouse's employment, they will almost certainly be eligible for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. That's how it works, though I wouldn't expect Sutherland to know that. Their previous criticisms of the ACA clearly demonstrate a total lack of understanding of the law they hate so much.

My wife and I got engaged on December 26, 2011. We were married on June 26, 2013. During this time, people would whisper about "the longest engagement ever" and wonder if we were ever actually going to get married. We wanted to. We never questioned that. But with my income added to hers (at a temp job which lasted well over a year and offered no benefits), I would no longer qualify for Medicaid, and while our two incomes together would pay rent on a small apartment, they wouldn't pay for the monthly supply of anti-rejection medications needed for my transplanted kidney. I'm not saying it wouldn't pay for both, mind you. I'm saying it wouldn't even pay for JUST MY PILLS, which cost the same per month as a two bedroom apartment in L.A. (and here I'm only counting the most expensive of the three types of  anti-rejection meds I take, to say nothing at all of the other meds I take to deal with the side effects of the anti-rejection meds). We looked for more lucrative employment for me, even though I was still suffering through a particularly difficult period of medication side effects and other issues that would have made full-time work very hard on me. When I lost out on getting a job that would have made it possible for us to get married in the summer of 2012 we were devastated. It was like dealing with a death in the family. During all this time, Healthy Utah would have been a godsend. With it's eligibility levels allowing incomes well above what traditional Medicaid does (which is the whole reason for expansion), it would have allowed us to get married, keep working, and get to the point where we had our own private insurance. Eventually, we refused to put it off any longer, and we got married, having no idea what we were going to do. As difficult as it became when Becky was laid off from her job shortly after our marriage began, the fact that it made our combined income so low probably saved my kidney. We both kept searching for full time work, and eventually she found it, including an insurance plan which covers my meds. Once again I was extremely fortunate in a way most people aren't. But if Healthy Utah had been in place, we would have been married within six months or less. We might already have the child we so badly want. And we certainly wouldn't have stopped looking for work, because Healthy Utah wouldn't pay our rent or feed or clothe us or anything else. We would have worked to support ourselves and our children, because we would have been able to do so without dealing with jumping through the endless hoops, delays and obstacles associated with being sick and uninsured.

I'm not saying my experience is universal. But it has a lot more to do with reality than anything you'll find in the Sutherland Institute's latest diatribe .  As crazy as this might sound to them, helping Utah families helps encourage Utahns to have families.

Monday, October 13, 2014


This Saturday, October 18th at 7pm, Utahns will gather at the Utah State Capitol to show their support for efforts to increase low-income Utahns’ access to healthcare coverage. Currently, there are 45,000 low-income Utahns who earn too much money or don’t otherwise qualify for Medicaid, but don’t earn enough to qualify for subsidized insurance on

Utah has been studying the issue for over two years. We have seen Utahns die because they didn’t receive the healthcare access they needed.  Every year we don’t expand Medicaid, an average of 200 Utahns will lose their lives. Utah’s Governor has a plan that will increase access to healthcare coverage with Utah-based solutions. We are not only gathering to mourn the loss of lives, but to celebrate the lives that can be saved by implementing the Governor’s Healthy Utah Plan.

Schedule for the Vigil:
·         7-minute version of the film Entitled to Life will be shown
·         Opening prayer from a Catholic clergyman
·         Dr. David Sundwall will offer his thoughts on why Utah should close the gap
·         Hear from Utahns in the Medicaid coverage gap, Stacy Davis-Stanford and Melanie Soules
·         Other religious leaders as confirmed
·         Closing prayer

WHAT: Healthy Utah Candlelight Vigil
WHERE: Utah State Capitol | South Steps

WHEN: Saturday | October 18th | 7:00-8:30pm

Friday, October 10, 2014


by Paul Gibbs

As much as many of us have been hoping for a special session of the legislature to pass Healthy Utah, it seems increasingly likely that we'll have to wait for the general session in January. Another delay is devastating to the people who need healthcare now. But if that's the hand we're being dealt, we need to use it to strengthen our position. In the November 4 election, we need to vote in as many candidates as possible who support Healthy Utah or Medicaid expansion. As I've said before, the easiest way to be sure you're voting for a candidate who supports it is to vote for a Democrat. But my interest is not in promoting victory for a political party, it's in promoting healthcare for the people of Utah.  While most Republican legislators or candidates have not gone on record as supporting Healthy Utah, some have, and they are worthy of your consideration.

The following is a list of specific candidates who support Healthy Utah. In the cases where I am specifically endorsing a candidate, I want to make it clear I'm speaking for myself only, not any other organization. They are entirely my own opinions.


Rebecca Chavez-Houck (House, D-District 24) is one of our best voices in the legislature, and is a member of the Utah Healthcare Reform Task Force. We need her voice there,

Gene Davis (Senate, D- District 3) is another strong supporter in the Task Force.

William A. McGee (House, D-27) supports expansion, and is running against a legislator who frankly needs to go. Rep. Mike Kennedy has garnered national negative attention for his comments that healthcare can kill, and that's just one example of his extremist, obstructionist views.

Karen Kwan (D- District 34) is a supporter running in a close race against incumbent Johnny Anderson, who does not support the cause. This is one if our best chances to make a change for the better.

Rep. Brian S. King (House, D- District 28) is another strong supporter we need back in office.

Raymond Ward Senate, R- District 19) is a primary care physician who has extensive experience working with patients in the gap, and has actively supported the cause. Ward lists fixing the Medicaid problem as one of his highest priorities.

Jim Dabakis, (Senate,D- District 2) is a passionate supporter of Medicaid expansion. He is still pushing for full expansion and is critical of Healthy Utah, but he has long been one of the most outspoken advocates of accepting federal funding to help those in need.

Travis Harper (House, D- District 6) is another case where his opponent has to go. Republican Jake Anderegg is another extremist who views any form of federally funded healthcare as an affront to America and will back that up with a poorly reasoned, mathematically challenged rant about the Boston Tea Party any chance he gets.

Richard Bagley (House, D-District 18) has first hand knowledge of the need for health care reform through working through Intermountain Health Care.


I very sincerely apologize if I have missed any Republican candidates who have come in out in support of Healthy Utah. These are the ones of whom I am aware. Keep in mind there are other Republicans in the legislature (such as Sen. Brian Shiozawa) who support Healthy Utah but whose districts don't have elections this year.

Rep. Craig Hall
(District 33)
Rep. Peter Knudson (District 17)
Raymond Ward (District 19)
Rep. Kraig Powell (District 54)
Rep. Edward Redd ((House District 4)
Ron Hilton, (House District 37)
Peter L. Krauss (House District 40)
V. Lowry Snow (House District 74)

By voting for any of these candidates you help improve our chances to pass Healthy Utah in the upcoming session. It's the most important thing you can do for the cause.