In a guest opinion last week, "Don't expand Medicaid on the backs of the disabled and elderly" (Sept. 14), Heather Williamson said that Proposition 3, which would have enormously harmful fiscal and human consequences — particularly for the least fortunate — deserves an emphatic “no” vote." I disagree and urge a "yes" vote on Proposition 3.
I have been at the forefront of the discussions at the Legislature about Medicaid expansion for many years. I have also had several My Views published in the Deseret News that encouraged expanding Medicaid for public safety reasons. I pointed out that to provide funding for drug addiction treatment, which leads to criminal behavior, Utah needed to expand Medicaid. It also needs better mental health treatment, since local government funding significantly decreased over the last decade.
Although the Legislature decided not to expand Medicaid originally, in subsequent years, it became clear that public safety did need the Medicaid expansion. The Legislature passed Medicaid expansion for homeless substance abuse disorder treatment and for mental health treatment. The federal government, after a few years, approved the homeless Medicaid proposal last year, and it has helped provide treatment for the second phase of Operation Rio Grande. Utah is awaiting federal approval of the state's mental health Medicaid expansion plan.
At present, chronic homeless drug and alcohol addicts, many of whom have had significant arrests for criminal behavior, get medical care. Law-abiding citizens who are low income and barely keep financially afloat are denied minimal medical care. Government should not be in the position where its actions actually encourage criminal behavior. Medical care, if provided to criminals, should be offered to law-abiding citizens. Proposition 3 would expand minimal medical care to law-abiding citizens.
An advantage of Proposition 3 passing is that it would almost immediately allow mental health treatment instead of waiting for years for the federal government to approve Utah's request. It could significantly reduce the threat from individuals who need mental health treatment, especially recently released prisoners. Much of the addiction issues in this country stem from mental health issues. Former Sheriff Jim Winder estimated that 80 percent of his jailed inmates had mental health issues that needed much more treatment in order to not continue their criminal behavior.
Regarding the claim that the cost would break the bank, we are already being financially affected by the result of no medical care for law-abiding citizens. They don't get medical care until they get so sick that they have to go to an emergency room! That ends up in a cost to taxpayers that is significantly more than if there was basic medical care available. Proposition 3 would provide for that basic medical care and lower the long- term cost of medical care, according to many health experts.3 comments on this story
Regarding the claim that "enormously harmful fiscal and human consequences" would happen if Proposition 3 passes, the increase in taxes is infinitesimal. And Utah gets access to billions in federal funding (that many other states have taken) to provide basic medical and mental heath care. Utah gets back over 10 times the amount that we put in. Paying a penny extra for a movie ticket is "infinitesimal."
The human consequences of not having access to basic medical care is horrific. It isn't just the person that is affected, it is their family, their caregivers and even society since it could increase the spread of disease.
The Legislature finally realized that Utah needs to have an expansion of Medicaid for homeless and mental health treatment; but Utah needs to pass Proposition 3 to ensure that everyone, not just criminals, get basic medical care.