Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Health care reform's effect on Utah, presidential politics

Published: Sunday, July 8 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Pignanelli: As a former general counsel — and now lobbyist — for Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield of Utah, I am trained to spot opportunities for health care reform. Insurance exchanges are clunky and expensive but will be increasingly larger features in the health care landscape — regardless of the 2012 elections. To prevent federal intrusion, Utah decision-makers should invigorate our famous exchange with true reforms that empower consumers (i.e., transparency, quality metrics, etc.) — with the eventual goal of privatizing. Utah could set the standard for the rest of the country of how to achieve greater access with lower cost.

Webb: It would be foolish to toss out Utah's insurance exchange just because Utah policymakers dislike Obamacare. Utah's exchange is entirely voluntary, consumer-oriented, market-driven and is a modest attempt to help small businesses and their employees find affordable health insurance.

It is vitally important to remember that repealing Obamacare doesn't solve the health care crisis, given the system's perverse incentives and escalating costs. Republicans who vilify Obamacare had better come up with substantive plans of their own or we'll see health care costs and programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, wreck our economy and destroy political careers. Remember that many, many Utah families are just one serious accident or illness away from financial disaster.

The Utah insurance exchange could be a part of the solution.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: frankp@xmission.com.

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