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Lawmakers review charity care as an alternative to Medicaid expansion

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 24 2013 6:53 p.m. MDT

It has presented many opinions on the matter, hoping to "reverse the ever-growing burden on taxpayers from Medicaid and other state government-driven programs," according to a 2008 policy brief titled “Caring for Our Neighbors in Need and Strengthening Community in Utah."

On Tuesday, Stan Rasmussen, Sutherland's director of public affairs, told the task force that there are many challenges to providing adequate charity care, including that it isn't readily available everywhere in the state and patients often don't know where to find it.

Rasmussen said human beings "should be attentive to the needs of each other, and should not have to rely on mechanisms of government."

The federal government has promised to fund 100 percent of the Medicaid expansion in Utah for at least the first three years. After that, the state would be responsible for 10 percent of the cost to extend coverage to more people, and beyond that, financing is uncertain.

For people who rely on government-subsidized health care, such as those in Green River, there is no substitute.

"We render really good health care here," Winters said, adding that it couldn't be done without federal funding.

The center is required to meet and work on various performance measures, maintaining standards as good quality health care.

While residents heavily rely on the medical facility, it is also essential to the many visitors to nearby state parks and travelers on the highways that cut through town. Like many medical facilities, patients receive care at the center regardless of their ability to pay.

Treatment for specialty care is outsourced, if patients can travel, and holes in health care are expected in the small community, as it will never be large enough to warrant a hospital, Winters said.

Lawmakers on the task force also agree that as long as there are people to treat, there will always be a demand for charity care. It is a dilemma that Christensen said could use some creative thinking and long-term commitment.

Email: wleonard@deseretnews.com

Twitter: wendyleonards

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