If we're to subscribe to the idea that there is such a thing as "Utah Values", it's a no-brainer that nothing is more central to them than families. Even something as divisive as our state's same-sex marriage debate had both sides vehemently arguing their different views about what was good for Utah families.
How then can we ignore the impact delaying Healthy Utah has on Utah families? According to statistics I've taken from the wonderful local organization Voices For Utah Children, 85% of the families in the coverage gap have at least one working parent. While the children can receive coverage through CHIP, their parents can't, and many are not eligible for Medicaid. We're talking about 44,000 Utah families where the parents are uninsured, and at least one of them works. For those who don't work, the most common reason is that they're "taking care of family". Is anybody going to tell me that's "against Utah values"?
The logic is airtight: Parents who are able to take take of their own health will be better able to take care of the needs of their children. By helping these parents do so, we would be helping Utah children, and strengthening Utah families. Whether you're providing for the material needs of a family by working outside the home, or nurturing and taking care of the day to day needs of children at home, being a parent is hard work. Trying to do it while dealing with an illness or physical ailment is considerably more difficult. Trying to do it while dealing with an untreated illness or physical ailment is something I'd prefer not to think about. But we have to think about it. And when we can so clearly do something about it, we have to do that, too.
And Healthy Utah would also provide help for older adults, including parents and grandparents. Low-income, near senior adults who are not yet eligible for Medicare coverage can get that coverage through Healthy Utah. We have the potential here to help, in some cases, three generations of Utah families. That certainly fits the "Utah Values" I grew up on.
The full details of the Healthy Utah plan will be reported to the Utah Healthcare Reform Task Force on December 4. That will leave a plan the Governor's office and federal government have agreed upon ready to go. All it needs is approval from our legislature. But now incoming House Speaker Greg Hughes is saying Healthy Utah is unlikely to be approved or shot down as is, but will be tweaked and reworked by 6 experts in the GOP caucus. I have to say, I've seen the work of some of these experts and I'm still waiting to be impressed. It's taken them two years to work toward a solution to a problem that already had a solution in place, and now they want to go back to square one? Any changes in Healthy Utah will have to be taken back to the federal government for approval. Utah families can't wait for another lengthy negotiation process. We need Healthy Utah now.