Jim Dabakis: After tap dancing for 2 years, just take Medicaid expansion!

Utah, quit stalling. Take full Medicaid Expansion. ‘The Gang of Six’ Republicans (Gov Herbert, Lt Gov Cox, Senate President Niederhauser, House Speaker Hughes, Senator Shiozawa and Rep Dunnigan) are deciding who will live and who will die. They are negotiating on whether the state should accept Medicaid Expansion–or not. They are taking their sweet time. The Medicaid Expansion decision is the biggest single issue to face the state in a generation and our state seems paralyzed, unable to make a decision.

Senator Jim Dabakis
by Sen. Jim Dabakis

The reason this is taking so long is not because this is a tough call. 73% of Utahns agree–Utah should take the Expansion. But the politics are tricky. The right wing of the Utah GOP is adamant–NO to Obama healthcare for low income folks. So the conundrum –do what’s right and alienate the most active part of the Utah GOP or stall and delay. So far delay is winning.

Red states like Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada have taken the health coverage. Utah is irresponsible to not take this paid-for health care for our low-income neighbors. These are families that simply cannot get insurance at the marketplace. Please ‘Gang of Six’, get some urgency in your snap–pretend that 123,000 low-income Utahns’ lives may be depending your decision—because it’s true. Pretend it is your family that does not have health care.

‘Gang of Six’, can’t we speed this up?.

We know when then they want to speed things up on the Hill, things move fast. They came up with a plan to cover the legal costs of a convicted County Commissioner–in a few days. And if they decide to run to court on a public land lawsuit or a marriage case, the decision is made–in hours.

Yet, the talks on Medicaid Expansion have no such fire. The ‘Gang of Six’ have been ‘negotiating’ on Medicaid Expansion, among themselves, behind closed doors since the legislative session ended in mid-March. Before that, it was two years of commissions, studies and committees–trying to decide if we should take Utah’s share of the Expansion. Of course, no Democrats are allowed in the room during the delicate, ‘Gang’ GOP-only caucus negotiations. Actually, Dems should not feel bad. The exclusion is total. No women, no low income Utahns, no media, no people of color, no one who could actually receive the health care, no one making under $100K, no one who favors full Medicaid Expansion etc. All closed out as the people’s business is being decided.

The Gang are busy people. I understand. It’s hard for them to find time to get everyone together and settle this matter. Tough to get the Apple Calendars synched. Perhaps I can help with a suggestion or two? Maybe the six should lock themselves into the Party Room at Chuck-A-Rama 24/7 and not leave until they agree on a plan. Or perhaps I could ask the Administration in DC  for a cell or two at Guantanamo for them to use, undistracted, until they decide. Nothing focuses like time in a Prison Camp–bet the ‘Gang’ would have a decision in no time at all!

This is $747,000,000 a year flowing to Utah low-income families by 2021. Talk about economic development! Dithering has already cost Utah $350 million in 2014 and $374 million in 2015. Plus, even if the ‘Gang’ finally hammers out a ‘Utah Plan’ and the legislature and the Utah TeaPeople allow the plan to go forward, that Utah Plan would still has to go to DC for approval. That could take years (thanks Obama!). Yet, Full Medicaid is already approved and funded.

So gents, I beg you. Forget politics, do the right thing. Take full Medicaid Expansion like our neighboring red states. Forget about any second rate, Utah concocted plan that covers less people and that will cause more delay as we seek to get DC to accept a Utah Plan.

Do the simple, courageous thing.Take full Medicaid Expansion today and let the healthcare and jobs begin to flow to Utah immediately.

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