The fight for universal healthcare in Utah

Demonstrators fill Utah’s Capitol rotunda to protect Prop 3, the voter approved Medicaid expansion law. Lawmakers defied the voters’ will, passing a new bill that restricts coverage.

Editor’s note: Voters in three “red” states: Utah, Idaho and Nebraska, passed ballot initiatives last November to expand Medicaid. Below, Utah activist Paul Gibbs speaks to the People’s Tribune.

“We have an incredible community of activists in Utah who like me, have either been greatly impacted by healthcare issues in the past, or who just care about helping others. Through our effort over the past six years, we have made a real difference in Utah despite very strong opposition from one of the most conservative legislatures in the country. Groups are also working to fund ballot initiatives in multiple states. We all care about what is happening in the other states as well as in our own community.

“Last November Utah voters passed Proposition 3 to expand Medicaid under the ACA (Affordable Care Act). Then in February, the legislature replaced it with a version of Medicaid expansion that expands it only up to those at 100% of the poverty level instead of 138%. The State is applying for federal waivers for things like work requirements and a per capita cap that is very damaging to the program. Now we are trying to get the public educated. We have about 70,000 people eligible now that weren’t covered before, and we want to get every one one of them covered.

“Because the president and the Republican Congress failed to repeal the ACA, Congress is trying to do it now through the legal branch. The efforts would be catastrophic if it goes through. Well, we all know that the ACA is not perfect. If repealed, 130 million Americans with preexisting conditions will lose that protection immediately. I’m one of those. I have a kidney transplant. I never would have gotten private insurance before the ACA. The uninsured rate will go up by 65%, Medicaid expansion for 17 million people will be lost, and 2.3 million adult children won’t be able to stay on their parents’ insurance anymore. Protections that stop us from having lifetime maximums on insurance coverage will be gone. All this and there’s no replacement plan. This is not a repeal and replace. It’s just the repeal now.

“The President and Republicans in Congress are hyping that they’re working on a new plan, but they’ve had nine years to work on replacement of the ACA. That they can pass something new with a majority in both houses of Congress that will have all the benefits of the ACA without any of the flaws, and that it will fit both conservative and liberal ideology, is utterly absurd and at best just a lie.

“A lot of people support Medicare for All, it’s a popular proposition. There’s a lot of discussion of that, and a public option, and all sorts of different ways of looking at this. What I think is the goal for most people is universal coverage. I’m not set on only one way to do that at this point. But universal coverage, making sure everybody has access to healthcare, is absolutely essential. That’s what we’re fighting for as most of us can’t afford health care.”

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