Letter to the Editor: Voting to expand Medicaid is a sound investment in Utah’s medical, economic future

Stock image, St. George News

OPINION — I have been working in St. George at the Family Healthcare Clinic for close to four years. We are one of Utah’s 13 Community Health Centers (CHCs), which provide health care to Utah’s urban and rural populations with limited access to care. CHCs are community-based and patient-directed organizations that meet the unique needs of the communities they serve.

In 2017, 46 percent of the population that came through the doors of Family Healthcare were uninsured. What I can tell you about our patients, besides their insurance status, is that they are working hard to make ends meet.

Our uninsured patients belong to the many families who make up our communities and work to make our communities pleasant places to live. They come through our doors in need of health care services.

Statistics show that the uninsured are less likely than those with insurance to receive preventive care and services for major health conditions and chronic diseases. Many uninsured people don’t obtain the treatments that their health care providers recommend for them.

In 2016 alone, uninsured non-elderly adults were three times as likely as adults with private coverage to say that they postponed or did not get a needed prescription drug due to cost (18 percent vs. 6 percent).

Fabiola, who was pregnant and living in Cedar City attended our Cedar City Clinic where she was cared for by a primary provider who cared for her during most of her pregnancy. Like 75 percent of our patients Fabiola was uninsured.

Fabiola moved to St. George in her late pregnancy and her baby was born in St George – a healthy boy! When her son, Gabriel, was a month old, Fabiola and her husband drove to Cedar City to meet with her provider and introduced her son to her. The provider was thrilled. She and Fabiola bonded during her pregnancy and she was more than the provider who cared for her during her pregnancy; she was a trusted friend.

Fabiola also took advantage of our 340b prescription program with Smith’s Grocery and Pharmacy both during and after her pregnancy and received her prescriptions at deeply discounted costs. The entire family are patients at Family Healthcare receiving high quality primary and patient-centered health care.

As another example, “McKeanna” unfortunately had some severe addictions, like many other Utahns (in 2018, Utah ranked nationally seventh for opioid addiction). She lived with these addictions for eight or so years.

Her family pretty much had given up on her thinking her brain was fried and she would never be able to function again. Her uncle and aunt hadn’t seen her for years, and the last time they saw her she was skin and bones.

Recently they ran into her at Walmart and she looked fabulous. She had gained 60 pounds and was happy, bubbly and positive. She told her uncle and aunt of her goals and so many good things happening in her life. When her uncle asked her what happened to turn the corner for her, she said it was Family Healthcare’s Psych APRN. She said with her personal connection, gentle guidance and change of medications, it changed her life completely.

She just raved about how her provider basically saved her life. Her uncle asked her if she would ever like to share her experience and she said for sure she would. And I’m sharing that now. It’s another story we love and believe reflects Family Healthcare’s commitment to our patients.

Right now, Utah voters have the opportunity to expand health care coverage to over 150,000 Utahns. Many Utahns earning less than $17,000 per year for an individual, or less than $34,000 per year for a family of four are uninsured. By expanding Medicaid, we will get back $9 for every healthcare dollar raised by a sales tax increase of 0.15 percent on nongrocery items – less than two cents on a $10 purchase.

By triggering this federal match, we can bring home over $800 million in federal funding every year from Washington D.C. The return of our tax dollars being put back into Utah’s economy will generate $1.7 billion in statewide economic growth, and create nearly 14,000 new jobs, mostly in the health care sector. For Family Healthcare that could mean nine additional new staff members to service our community.

Some of the most important services that CHCs offer are preventive services and screenings that stop people from becoming sick in the first place. Proposition 3 is an important and sound investment in the future of our state, both medically and economically. Join me in voting yes on Proposition 3.

Submitted by LORI WRIGHT, St. George, Utah. Wright is the CEO of Family Healthcare.

Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.


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  • No Filter October 24, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    I sure hope you got the patients permission to use their name and medical history? Do they not have HIPAA rules at family healthcare?

    • Happy Commenter October 24, 2018 at 5:59 pm

      Missed the point of the letter again? As usual!

      • No Filter October 25, 2018 at 9:48 am

        Graving attention again I see John

  • Not_So_Much October 24, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    I’m voting NO. If this is a priority then look to other sources to pay for it. Perhaps sell lottery tickets and use the states share for this would be one possibility.

    • Happy Commenter October 24, 2018 at 6:00 pm

      Agreed, there are other ways to pay for it.

    • TinFoilHat October 24, 2018 at 8:41 pm

      Seriously? For 1.5 cents on $10 you would begrudge people healthcare? You probably step over ten pennies walking through the parking lot of the grocery store on your way to your car. Here’s the thing: a lot of people are uninsured, not because they aren’t working and want a free ride, but because it is outrageously expensive, especially if you are self employed or working multiple part-time jobs. Healthcare in this country is broken, and if you are waiting for a free market solution to save it you will be sadly disappointed because it will never happen until you refuse any medical services to all uninsured people, period. Are you willing to do that? Are you willing to be a cold-hearted decider who turns away injured, sick or dying people at the hospital door because they don’t have insurance? Effectively their executioner? If anyone can put forth a free market solution that is affordable and treats everyone humanely I will eat my tin foil hat. I favor the free market for many things because it rewards success and punishes failure in the marketplace — but failure in business does not necessarily carry a consequence of illness, death and suffering.

      • Brian October 24, 2018 at 11:30 pm

        Do you know why healthcare is so expensive? Because the government is so involved in it.

        Do you know why tuition is so expensive? Because the government got involved in it.

        The problem with health insurance is we don’t treat it like normal insurance (and that has gotten WAY worse since obamacare passed).

        Imagine how expensive car insurance would be if when you got your oil changed you filed a claim. When you gassed up you filed a claim. When you went through the car wash you filed a claim. Car washes would cost $750!

        I talked to a friend the other day and the insurance rate (billed to the insurance company) for a metabolic panel (blood test) at the clinic where he works is $2,700. Their cost for the test is $300 (from the facility they send the blood to). $2,400 is a great profit for sticking a needle in someone and putting a stamp on a sample! That’s because of medicare and obamacare. Look at a graph of healthcare costs since obamacare was passed!

        Do you know why we have an opioid epidemic in this country? Medicare is a huge part of the problem. A patient getting opioids through medicare is 7 times more likely to fatally overdose than a patient that gets it through insurance, because medicare has very little meaningful oversight and they hand it out like candy.

        • TinFoilHat October 25, 2018 at 12:49 pm

          I will agree with you that government should stay out of most things. But you present a false equivalence here. Driving is a privilege, not a right, that is highly government regulated — people are required to have insurance to drive. No insurance, no driving. If you drive without insurance you are breaking the law, and in the case of an accident while you are uninsured, you lose your driving privilege.

          Now let’s make the equivalence substitution: “Living is a privilege, not a right, that is highly government regulated — people are required to have insurance to live. No insurance, no living. If you live without insurance you are breaking the law, and in the case of an accident while you are uninsured, you lose your living privilege.”

          I am actually good with this — people, in principle, should be responsible for their own health and their own healthcare. However, the problem is that we, as a society, won’t let that happen. If a person gets smashed up in an accident, we don’t make them wait around for treatment while we sort out their insurance, we take them straight to the hospital and treat them. And if it is discovered that they have no insurance, or their insurance is inadequate, we don’t say sorry, I can treat your arms but your legs are not covered, or leave them to die smashed up on the road, or kick them out the back door of the hospital. This is why, in my mind, there is no free market solution to healthcare. I would love to be convinced otherwise. Please tell me how, if we won’t let people suffer the consequence of death and associated suffering, a free market solution will work. Or do we want to try to change that fundamental spark of compassion in our humanity, our society?

          I’m not arguing left or right, or Obamacare vs ACA, I’m arguing the fundamental philosophy of how a free market solution could or could not work. Unless we are willing to let people die in the street, and there will be some bureaucrat-like claims adjuster who would have to make that life-or-death decision, there is no free market solution. We simply will not, as a society, allow people to die for not having insurance.

          So you can rail all day about how in principle the free market is better than a government program and I will tend to agree with you much of the time. But I don’t see it here.

          Not going to step in the opioid-crisis tar-baby, except to say that private enterprise is at least as much to blame. A drug manufacturer wants to maximize profits by selling as many drugs as possible, and if a government program provides an opportunity…..but that is just one small part of the problem. This actually just illustrates the fact that any time the free market gets access to a government program, the businesses involved will use the situation to maximize their profits.

        • Lee Saunders October 26, 2018 at 3:14 pm

          I’m wondering if you could expand on why you think that healthcare is so expensive because the government is so involved? Or any of your other claims that things are expensive because the government is involved.

          Could it in part be that things are getting more expensive for us all because of the anti-consumer/pro-business attitude in the administration today? If so, your point about government interference is well taken.

          I’m on the fence regarding Bernie’s single payer proposals. There’s just too many variables that can’t be easily quantified. There’s little doubt that tax costs coming out of one pocket would go up, but the premiums, copays and costs to all of us currently covering the uninsured coming out of the other pocket would disappear or be drastically reduced.

          By the way, what IS going on in the Bureau of Consumer Protection these days? I almost never hear of anything being accomplished for us consumers, especially compared to during the last administration.

          As far as the ACA, most everybody agrees that it wasn’t perfect. My opinion of why it wasn’t perfect was, one, it was a compromise, giving too much to the lobbyists of the healthcare and related industry. Two, the problems might have been correctable if it wasn’t opposed so vigorously by President Obama’s political adversaries. If McConnell and Boehner had expressed an interest in fixing the ACA, perhaps things would look entirely different today on the ACA front.

          Before I retired I worked for a nonprofit quasi-governmental regional agency. We needed to have a job done and have staff that could do the job. I put out a RFQ to private vendors to ascertain a price to get the job done. After receiving the quotes back I decided to have the in-house crew do the job. I kept track of all costs, amortizing equipment, operating costs and including apportioned future costs such as pensions and other fringe benefits. After doing it in house the cost was half what the (several) private vendors quoted.

          This is my personal experience when comparing government costs to private entity costs where profit is the driving motive. In our core business, we also have private competitors and their costs for the product is twice our cost to the consumer. Just another example of government versus private for-profit costs. Maybe the bottom line is who are you rooting for: the profiteers or the consumers. Balance in all things…

  • KR567 October 24, 2018 at 7:25 pm

    The State is only allowed to do as the dominant religion in Utah allows the politicians to do

  • [email protected] October 24, 2018 at 8:30 pm

    I fully support thee passage of Prop 3. Thanks Lori for clarifying the issue.

  • Craig October 25, 2018 at 9:51 am

    Who pays? We cannot, as a nation, continue on this path.

  • Chris October 25, 2018 at 1:33 pm

    Young LDS couples having children, particularly while they are still students or otherwise under-employed, are among the heaviest users of Medicaid per capita in the country.

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