Guest Blogger: Marc Watterson, Utah Government Relations Director
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season these past few weeks! I had a chance to spend some wonderful time with my family and recharge my battery as we now prepare for the busiest season of all: Legislative Session!
As you are aware, the State of Utah will begin their annual legislative session in a few weeks. While every session has its moments, this year looks to be quite busy as our elected officials debate several issues that could have a profound impact on many Utahns. Often the American Heart Association is asked to “weigh-in” on several of these issues. As our top volunteers I wanted to give you a chance to see a bit of what goes on behind the screen and see where we sit on what will probably be the top issue of this session: Medicaid expansion.
By now, it would be hard to find many people in the state who have not heard of Governor Herbert’s “Healthy Utah” plan that would improve the access to affordable healthcare coverage for many in our State. We commend the state of Utah for trying to find an option that best suits the needs of all Utahns in regards to medical insurance coverage. We respect the delicate balance legislators face between providing a means of coverage for an at-risk population, while also ensuring the state meets its financial obligations now and in the future.
We understand that any effort to help underserved populations carries a significant financial cost to the state. When looking at it purely from a cost-perspective it can be tempting to go with the cheapest option. But as life all-too-often reminds us, the cheapest option may not always be the best option. While considering the need for enhancing insurance coverage we ask that lawmakers remember that in life there is a right way and a wrong way to do the right thing. We believe that the Healthy Utah Plan is the right way to do the right thing for the citizens of Utah.
Utah is known for its culture of hard-working and compassionate citizens. We feel that the Healthy Utah Plan finds the right balance between providing affordable coverage for those in need, while encouraging them to take responsibility of their own health. In 2011, hospital charges for cardiovascular disease alone exceeded $600 million in Utah. And in 2013, more than 4,000 Utahns died from cardiovascular disease and stroke, the number one cause of death in Utah. There is no question that if there was an increased access to care and an opportunity for individuals to affordably visit their healthcare provider, many of these lives would not have been lost.
While there will be many issues that the legislature will discuss in the coming months, few have the potential to effect so many lives as this does.
I hope that you will join us during this session for our annual Heart on the Hill Lobby Day on February 6th! It looks to be an exciting time for our staff and volunteers to assemble and have a chance to speak with our legislators about issues that our close to our hearts. Please bring your family and friends who are able to attend and don’t forget to RSVP for the event here.