clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

In our opinion: Proposition 3 would make a healthier Utah

Dr. Scott Poppen, left, and Shirley Belleville, right, talk to Ezra Pederson, center, about Proposition 3, a ballot initiative that would raise the sales tax for Medicaid expansion, in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018.
Dr. Scott Poppen, left, and Shirley Belleville, right, talk to Ezra Pederson, center, about Proposition 3, a ballot initiative that would raise the sales tax for Medicaid expansion, in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018.
Qiling Wang, Deseret News

Expanding Medicaid as outlined in Proposition 3 would allow those in the coverage gap now to receive needed health care, introduce jobs and provide relief to the state’s addicted and homeless population. It’s worthy of Utahns’ support.

There is truth in the adage “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.” Those who are not healthy cannot work. Those who cannot work do not have health insurance to cover medical costs to get them healthy. The result is a coverage gap where those who could work are unable, often sending them into a spiral of financial and health problems. Those without health care live in fear of even the most basic injuries or illness, knowing it would come at great cost — not just to their wallets, but to their lifestyle and work eligibility.

A small sales tax increase of 0.15 percent, equivalent to an extra penny on a movie ticket, is a fair price to pay to allow at least 150,000 currently in this gap to get the health care they need and be eligible for work again. Expanding Medicaid coverage does not perpetuate living on welfare; it provides a way out by opening the door to finding work and health insurance. Proposition 3 promotes self-reliance by getting people on their feet and able to provide for themselves.

By using the sales tax increase to cover Utah’s portion of the costs of expansion, the state unlocks $800 million in federal money designed for providing coverage for those in need. This opens resources to assist the addicted and homeless. Those in the coverage gap will no longer worry about finding aid through free clinics or charities, which can't cover all the needs.

We previously endorsed the Medicaid waiver and find this expansion comparable in the way it would expand treatment options for those who are in and out of homelessness as a result of addiction.

Results from the other 33 states that have expanded Medicaid show a promising outlook. Passing Proposition 3 is estimated to create 14,000 jobs across multiple industries and grow the economy by an estimated $1.7 billion, according to the Utah Healthy Policy Project. In this way, Proposition 3 benefits all of Utah, not just those in need of health care.

Opposition to Medicaid expansion claims demand for enrollment would outpace projections, burdening state budgets with unexpected deficits. In March, however, the Brookings Institution offered a comprehensive analysis of states that accepted Medicaid expansion and found the cost of enrollment has not significantly impacted budgets. The cost of expansion has been largely offset by the decrease of expenditures in other state-funded programs.

Getting Utahns healthy would free up resources and allow help where it is needed. A healthy Utah means more people will be able to work, get off Medicaid and provide for themselves and their families.

The impact is clear: A healthier Utah is a better Utah.