This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
On Nov. 1, the Tribune ran an op-ed wherein Natalie Gochnour and Jon Pierpont advocated taking steps to end the cycle of poverty. Well, who can argue with that? Gochnour and Pierpont pointed out that, based on research, there are four key focus areas that have the greatest impact the well-being of children and thus on stopping the perpetuation of poverty from generation to generation, one of them being family health.
Well, unlike Gochnour and Pierpont, I'm not an academic nor a member of a prestigious do-good commission, but it's impossible for me to not see a crucial and essential link between "family health" and access to health insurance.
The Gochnour/Pierpont op-ed was full of bromides and banalities about the need for Utahns to be smart and that all of us need to work together to come up with great ideas to stop the cycle of poverty. Staring Gochnour and Pierpont in the face, but unmentioned by them, was expanding Medicaid in Utah to provide health insurance to more than 100,000 Utahns currently uninsured.
There are likely many policy changes that could positively impact the cycle of poverty in a substantial way. I don't know how many policy changes are needed, or specifically what all of them are. But solely for purposes of illustration, let's say there are 10 such policy changes that could make a big difference in changing the cycle of poverty. Free societies, with differing interests and ideologies, only make changes in relatively small increments. It would be essentially impossible to immediately implement all 10 of the aforementioned policy changes to prevent the perpetuation of poverty.
But expanding Medicaid in Utah is the lowest hanging fruit. The law to expand Medicaid already exists, whether it's the expansion originally envisioned by the Affordable Care Act or Gov. Herbert's Healthy Utah. The huge economic incentives already exist. Medicaid expansion has the support of nearly all Democrats and a material minority of Republicans. All it requires is a vote of the state Legislature.
Many Utah voters were asked to pass Proposition 1 on Nov. 3. Proposition 1 would provide funds for things such as safer sidewalks and better biking and hiking trails financed by a quarter-percent increase in the sales tax. That's an extra dollar of sales tax for every $400 spent.
Had all the counties passed Proposition 1, the money that would have been raised is more than what's required to expand Medicaid. Better biking trails are fine, but I would much rather see my fellow Utahns get health insurance. How can better bike trails be more important than seeing our fellow Utahns enjoy a better quality of life and begin the process of escaping intergenerational poverty?
The Utah Senate is hardly a bastion of hand-wringing liberals, yet Senate President Wayne Niederhauser courageously led that body to pass Healthy Utah. We'd be much better served if Gochnour and Pierpont risked some controversy and spoke truth to power about the need, and benefits for all Utahns, of expanding Medicaid.
Eric Rumple lives in Sandy and is the author of the novel "Forgive Our Debts."