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The hottest topic in Utah right now in healthcare is the debate over Medicaid expansion. Should we be expanding Medicaid, and if so, how do we accomplish that?
McOMBER: We do agree with Medicaid expansion. We think it's good for the citizens of Utah, that it benefits all. So we should find a way to pay for it that actually is across the board. We think if you took a general sales tax increase, you could take a very, very, very tiny amount, and you could cover it.
BARLOW: This has been a tough issue because clearly the expansion needs to happen. There's just too many vulnerable people that don't have coverage. Now they have penalty taxes as well as not having coverage, which is additionally problematic.
SLONAKER: We're now stuck in this quagmire of how to fund the Medicaid expansion. And frankly, over the last three years there have been a number of things proposed. A sales tax on food has been a rather late suggestion, but I think it's an OK suggestion. There are a variety of other ways that they've thought about. Maybe it's a mix of some provider groups paying some portion. Some of the beneficiaries paying some portion. The hospitals have come to the table. A small sales tax on food, something like that.
At the Utah Health Policy Project, we help people sign up for health insurance, as well as work on the policy side of things. And 50 percent of folks that we see come in our doors don't have an option. They're in this gap. So we see them front and center. They're people who are working low-paid jobs, generally speaking, and don't get offered insurance through their own employer, and they're also not eligible for the ACA subsidies because they don't make enough. So there's a need out there, that's for sure.
We've talked about Utah being open for business, good for business. We're now facing having a
higher uninsured rate than the rest of the country. We've always been really good in that category, towards the top. Now we're lower than average. We're around Alabama, Mississippi. Colorado's beat us. They've done a Medicaid expansion. So as far as attracting business, it's one of those big, global metrics that businesses look at. It's important from that perspective, too.
SHEETS: It needs to happen. We shouldn't lead the nation in the rate of uninsured, especially in Utah. It's kind of an interesting dichotomy to have, to be one of the top economies in the country and yet still have that many uninsured. There's a lot of reasons why we need to expand, not just to get people insured, but people need the care.
Mental health services is something that's woefully inadequate, and Medicaid expansion was really helpful with that. We see a lot of that at LDS Hospital. We're the only really inner city hospital for Intermountain, so we see a lot of those patients and deal with them every day.
WEED: Intermountain's position on this is the same. We deal with the most impoverished, the people who need the coverage. We've got to figure out a way to do that.
I think that we, as hospitals, are willing to participate in the subsidy and the funding of this. The issue is the extent. If we've got unlimited exposure on this, that's something that we're not willing to enter into. On the other hand, if it's defined, if it's reasonable, I think that's a position we're willing to support.
We've seen a wave of the major health insurance companies trying to merge, the national ones, across the country. So let's talk about what we see as the future of health insurance and how private exchanges are changing the healthcare landscape, and what's going on with our own state exchange.