Guest Blogger: Marc Watterson, Utah Government Relations Director
The 2016 Legislative Session has finally come to end and while there are important issues that have yet to be resolved, we can be proud of the efforts we have engaged in and the results we were able to see.
This year the Utah State Legislature made initial steps toward working on Healthcare issues affecting the State by passing House Bill 437 “Health Care Revisions”. This bill had the effect of partially expanding Medicaid coverage for an estimated 17,000 Utahns who currently have no insurance coverage. I’m happy to report that as part of the AHA’s efforts to fully expand Medicaid we were able to work with the bill sponsor and successfully include language in House Bill 3 “Appropriations Adjustments” that ensures that Tobacco Cessation services that meets AHA criteria will be extended to all Medicaid recipients in the state! Your efforts will ensure that all Medicaid recipients will have access to both counseling and all FDA-approved pharmaceutical methods for tobacco cessation at no or minimal cost sharing. These efforts will ensure coverage for those most in need and will further contribute to Utah’s nation-leading low smoking rates!
At our annual lobby day in February, You’re the Cure volunteers from across the state had an opportunity to participate in a full day of activities, including a special bill signing ceremony with the Governor where we celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the Utah Indoor Clean Air Act and honored the individuals who made it all possible those many years ago. After the ceremony our volunteers spoke to their legislators on a number of legislative issues. Conversations between Board Members and legislative leadership surrounding Medicaid Expansion allowed us to begin discussions on enhancements to tobacco cessation services. Although the legislation in question was not a full expansion of Medicaid services as envisioned in the ACA, legislative leadership saw the wisdom in enhancing tobacco cessation services as a means of decreasing tobacco use and more effectively utilizing state resources.
But none of this would have been possible without your help and support! As was highlighted during last month’s blog about the CPR save by the Hurricane Wrestling Team, your advocacy efforts have a direct impact on the lives of our fellow Utahn’s. Whether it’s CPR, Tobacco Cessation, Safe Routes to Schools, or Hospital Stroke Treatment, you are making a difference and helping the AHA to achieve our Mission of saving lives and improving health. Thank you for all you do and do not hesitate to get involved! The next great thing we do could all come down to you!