Sunday, January 25, 2015


by Paul Gibbs

Some fun and exciting events are going on in Utah over the next couple of weeks. Right now the Sundance Film Festival is in full swing, and next weekend we have Salt Lake Comic Con FanX. Anybody who really knows me knows what a movie geek I am, and I'm excited to be on some panels at FanX and possible meet Superman and Doctor Who. And I'm hoping to make it to at least one film at Sundance that really excites me (Experimenter, based on the same true story which inspired a short film, The Milgram Experiment, which won me my first award and played at a film festival I couldn't go to because I'd gotten a new kidney 3 days before). It's a fun and exciting time.

A lot of my life is based around the entertainment industry, and I'm not at all one to dismiss these things. Movies (both the serious, artistic kind celebrated at Sundance and the geeky, fun kind celebrated at FanX) are my life.  But it's disconcerting to me that I feel something much more important is in danger of getting lost in the shuffle: the upcoming Utah general legislative session. Obviously it's a lot less fun than Sundance or FanX, and we get a lot less excited about legislators than movie and TV stars (as someone who knows a lot of legislators, in many cases I understand and even agree with this). But this isn't just some boring, humdrum business as usual political event. This is when very important decisions will be made. In some cases, life and death decisions. And every single person who thinks they don't need to be bothered because there's nothing they can do about it is not only wrong, but dangerously wrong. We can do something about it. We have to do something about it.

While I'm deeply concerned with multiple issues likely to be dealt with at this year's session, obviously I'm most concerned about Healthy Utah. The fight to bring even reasonable access to healthcare to those in the coverage gap will almost certain come to its decision point within the next 50 days or so. There's a very real danger that instead of Healthy Utah, we'll get what Rep. Brian King called "Frail Utah" in an excellent op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune: proposals by the majority of the Healthcare Reform Task Force which cover only roughly 1 tenth of  what Healthy Utah does, and keep over $2 billion in Utah tax payer money from coming back to our state. It's a plan which really is intended to give extremists the appearance of compassion while leaving tens of thousands of Utahns no hope but to pray they don't get sick. Ironically, perhaps the most prominent opponent of Medicaid expansion or Healthy Utah, former House Speaker Becky Lockhart, was diagnosed with a rare illness and then passed away between the 2014 session and this one. This heartbreaking tragedy underscores just how fragile health and life are, and how none of us can just rely on staying healthy.

 We can help tens of thousands of Utahns get a fair chance at healthcare. We can do it with our state's own money, and if we choose not to, we won't get 1 cent of that money back. But there's a very
real chance that we'll be passed up because of some stubborn legislators who think it's more important to deny a victory to the guy they didn't vote for.  Every reasonable person should be so outraged by this that it makes it hard for them to sleep at night. It doesn't matter what your ideology is.  But are we even paying attention? The instinct to choose to escape from reality rather than confront it is a natural and often necessary one. But at the wrong times it can be devastating to let what is pleasant distract us from what is important. All I'm asking is that everyone take even 1 minute to email, write or call a legislator. Even daring to risk offending someone with a Facebook status that says "I support Healthy Utah" is doing something. And if you've contacted one, contact another. The reason they can do this is because they don't expect us to get worked up or do anything about it. I and all of my fellow activists are dismissed by opponents as just a bunch of bleeding hearts whose opinions don't matter. They need to know it's not just us, it's not just activists, it's not just those who need insurance themselves, it's every Utahn who cares about their fellow human beings.

 There's nothing wrong with being caught up in the excitement of fun and exciting events. I love these things. We need these things. But we have to remember the big picture, too. Just devote a couple of minutes to Healthy Utah. That's all I ask. Because if we end up with "Frail Utah", people we know and love will be hurt by it along with everyone else. And we'll all have to ask ourselves if we did enough.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015



The following letter is being sent to all 104 members of the Utah Senate and Utah House of Representatives.


Dear Legislator,

In November of 2008, I went a check-up with a new primary care doctor. The appointment was far from routine. I was told that I had end stage kidney failure, and would need a kidney transplant.  That was scary enough. The fact that I had no health insurance (I worked part time, and divided the rest of my time between college and being a care giver for my niece and nephew) made it flat out terrifying.  I was lucky, because the generosity of friends and strangers was overwhelming. First of all, a good friend donated his kidney to me, then my friends teamed with generous organizations to raise $10,000  that would go towards my medical bills. As moving as astounding as this was, it wasn’t enough to get me the surgery. The transplant surgery itself cost $79,000.  My kidneys were in bad enough shape that a separate surgery to remove them was required. The medications I needed to keep my body from rejecting the kidney would cost roughly the same amount per month as rent on a one-bedroom apartment. In the end, I was able to receive this lifesaving surgery because of a great nation and state which has the wisdom and compassion to use programs such as Medicaid to help those who need it.               

Everybody who doesn’t have health insurance now deserves the same chance I had.  Because I believe this I have become an active supporter of and advocate for Governor Herbert’s Healthy Utah plan.  I have gotten to know many of the people in the coverage gap as I worked to tell their stories in my documentary film Entitled to Life. Tens of thousands of Utahns who fall within the “Medicaid Gap” are losing their health or their lives to the delay on expanding Medicaid, and we can help them by implementing Healthy Utah plan.  The suggestions of the Health Reform Task Force are insufficient and ineffective. Tens of thousands of needy Utahns will be left out, and as good as our charity care system is, it cannot provide them the specialty care they need. Take Stacy Stanford, one of the patients profiled in my film: she will remain without coverage for the same reason she can’t get disability Medicaid now: she can’t afford to get the diagnosis which documents the neurological condition which makes her “medically frail”. Charity care can’t get her this, for the reasons I’ve detailed above. Stacy is living proof that the “medically frail” options don’t work. Some have suggested that the Healthy Utah opponents in our legislature are heartless. I do not agree. They are decent, caring human beings. Their failing is that they are so blinded by ideology they refuse to see obvious facts staring them in the face. But the tragedy is that innocent people will suffer, because poverty and illness are immune to ideology.

            As a lifelong Utahn, and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I firmly believe that only Healthy Utah fits all of the criteria the Church set forth for a principled approach.  We are a state which values families, and the Christian concepts of justice and mercy. We can’t make families suffer for our political ideals, and a system which leaves tens of thousands of working Utahns without any access to real health coverage clearly doesn’t fit any reasonable definition of justice or mercy.  Please look into your heart and support Healthy Utah in the upcoming legislative session. It’s not about right and left, it’s about right and wrong.

Paul Gibbs

Monday, January 5, 2015


by Paul Gibbs

Remember near the end of the original Star Wars, when Han Solo was leaving before the battle of the Death Star? Just taking his money and running, because they didn't have a chance of winning and it wasn't his fight anyway? Is that we nearly every male (and many of the females) from my generation grew up wanting to be Han Solo? Of course not. If Han had left then he wouldn't be the idol of millions, he wouldn't have gotten Princess Leia, and instead of arguing who shot first, we'd be saying "Greedo should have aimed better". But Han came back, blasted the panels off of Vader's ship, and became a hero most of us still want to emulate. And yet, too often I fear we come closer to being the Han who very nearly weaseled out.

Some misinformed people are taking a defeatist view that Healthy Utah has no chance of passing because of the recommendations made by Darth Dunnigan and the Health Reform Rask Force. But that's not the case. That recommendation isn't binding. it has no hold on anyone. Any member of the legislature can still bring Healthy Utah to a vote, and I guarantee you that courageous legislators on both sides of the aisle,  like Rebecca Chavez-Houck, Brian Shiozawa, Brian King and Ray Ward aren't going to take the easy way out. The battle is for from over, and we can win. It's time to decide whether we're going to go into battle or shrug it off. I truly believe we can win this, but if we don't, I'll never have to wonder if I didn't do enough. Can you say the same? To be brutally honest, the biggest threat to Healthy Utah at this point isn't right wing extremism, it's liberal apathy. We complain about the way our state is run, but then shrug off chances to do something. If we fail, it will because not enough people who agreed with the cause were willing to fight for it.  No matter what I do for the rest of my life, I'll always know I was brave enough to stand up against powerful people to fight for what I knew was right. You can, too.

I appreciate the people coming to the SUPPORT HEALTHY UTAH VIDEO EVENT, but so far we don't have nearly as many as we need to make a statement which will get the legislature's attention. Please evaluate how important your other commitments really are. If you truly can be there, can you film your own statement? A video selfie on your cell phone is enough. But if we believe in this at all, you have to make the effort to do this. Every single person we have makes a difference, and so does every single person we don't.

If you record your own statement, contact me at I can get the footage and include it. Please help. Be on the side that stood up and fought.

Thursday, January 1, 2015


by Paul Gibbs

One of the best possible chances we could have for convincing the legislature to pass Healthy Utah is public opinion. That's the dead horse I've been beating for months now, I know, but the situation is getting desperate and we're at the point when showing support is a now or never proposition.

I've decided to make a short  video of Utahns telling the legislature they support the full Healthy Utah plan, not the weak alternatives proposed by the Health Reform task Force, which will leave tens of thousands without insurance. Please attend the SUPPORT HEALTHY UTAH VIDEO EVENT on Saturday, January 10 and make your voice heard. IF we don't stand together on this the results will be devastating.