Update June 1, 2020
The Corona Virus Pandemic has made it abundantly clear how much health care is an essential, universal human need. We ALL pay the price for ill health. It is something that every human being has a right to, a drop of life. Lowering health care costs by expanding affordable health care to every resident and reducing the cost of prescription medication should be a priority of any state legislator. We can no longer rely or depend on the federal government being able to help or step in when health care crises arise. Now more than ever before, our State must continue to be in a leadership position to provide the crucial health care services in a responsible way for our residents now and into the future.
Access to health care is more than a matter of convenience or buying a luxury item, it is an essential human need. Health insurance premiums have risen by 30 percent in the past decade according the Utah Foundation (Rising premium costs getting 'really scary' for Utah small business," Deseret News, April 29, 2018) often with high deductibles easily adding more than $3,000 to a family’s medical expenses per year. My wife and I personally experience how this year (2020), we are expected to pay an additional $1,600 more this year until I reach my maximum out-of-pocket medical expenses at which point my wife's generous utility company retirement program will pay 100%. I fret over how other families with less generous insurance will fare. Now as a result of the Corona Virus Pandemic, even worse news may just been around the corner as one estimate projects our health insurance premiums may "sky rocket" as insurances companies incur billions of additional costs as people require extensive more medical costs as a result of the Corona Virus. "Health insurance premiums could skyrocket: analysis," The Hill (March 29, 2020).
EVERY LIFE IS PRECIOUS AND DESERVES AN OPPORTUNITY TO LIVE
One State Representative has said, "(G)overnment overreacted to COVID-19 pandemic, 'can't save everybody," Deseret News (May 5, 2020). As a clinical social worker my first and utmost moral obligation is to the well-being and self-determination of my client. As your state representative I would work tirelessly to ensure that your health as well as your well-being and freedom of choice are of paramount importance. Without it, no matter how thriving our economy becomes, life will have very little meaning. Pandemics place an entire community and everybody who lives in one at serious risk. I will not play Russian roulette with your lives. Not everybody plays by the rules and I will not take inordinate chances especially where innocent lives are at stake. What would you sacrifice in order to protect your child, your spouse, parents, or grandparents who might become exposed to a deadly disease? What steps would you be willing to take to save your neighbor, your friend, maybe even a complete stranger?
When America was at war with Nazi Germany, gasoline, food was rationed, people made their own clothes. Steel was used instead of copper for pennies in 1943. Today we are at war with an invisible enemy with only the possibility of an effective vaccine for an enemy which is by most accounts is "ten times" more deadly than the common flu. What is the price of someone's freedom when they are dead or gravely ill? As your state representative I will give everyone that opportunity to have a choice, a choice to live well, and with that good life the greatest freedom possible.
I want to thank and commend the residents of Davis County who have patiently sacrificed waiting for this terrible Pandemic to slowly dissipate. It has taken great faith to persevere so that our essential hospitals and first responders were not overcome by thousands of patients and were able to provide the intensive treatment and precious medical equipment needed to save hundreds of lives. We will make it through this ordeal if we work together and keep our minds focused, united against this enemy.
Lower health care costs by maintaining and expanding "affordable" health care insurance. Our State needs to expand “affordable” health care insurance for everyone, including the middle- and upper middle-class residents. When a middle-class business woman with a family of five who lives in our Utah House District has to pay more in monthly health insurance premiums than her monthly house payment (I talk to this mother back in 2018), something is terribly wrong with our health care system. We can reduce health care costs and insurance premiums for everyone through "preventive" medical care and "earlier" medical treatment. Too many families without insurance cannot pay for routine dental and medical checkups, routine diabetic and cancer screenings. The cost of denying basic health care results in residents in our community forced to go to emergency rooms repeatedly to deal with serious or life-threatening illnesses (that never actually get managed) amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars in specialized medical treatment that we all end up paying for.
When we allow our neighbors to get sick without access to affordable health care what happens? You and I already know from the Corona Virus that has invaded our communities. Let's recap:
Children go to school sick making other students sick or they stay home longer and fall further and further behind in school;
Parents get sick and can't take care of their children;
Businesses suffer as more and more of their employees get sick and still continue to work even though they are sick and infect others or don't get to work, decreasing business productivity and profits, increasing the cost for goods and services for the rest of us;
Employees become susceptible to being fired or laid off because they can't get well or have to take more time off work;
Families get more stressed as tempers flare as people begin to feel just plain lousy and marriages become threatened with disorder and dissolution. "Salt Lake police report 'dramatic uptick' in domestic violence," Deseret News (March 24, 2020).
The price of health care goes up for all of us as more and more people seek health services, especially those who can't afford preventative health care, service they can ill-afford to pay at our emergency rooms and urgent care medical clinics.
We can no longer afford people waiting until they are dead instead of receiving earlier medical care at a far less cost.
Reduce the amount of wasteful bureaucratic paperwork. Our health “Administrative expenses…account for 20 percent to 25 percent of U.S. health care expenditures” twice that of Canada according to "Sick of Confusing Medical Bills," Consumer Reports (September 2018). Many of these costs are passed onto us by health providers and insurance companies. Our health care system is broken. Utah health care needs a more manageable payer system that could save tens of millions of dollars in administrative costs for taxpayers (“Hidden From View: The Astonishingly High Costs of U.S. Health Care,” The New York Times, July 10, 2018). I will call for a health care summit of consumers, providers and government officials to simplify and consolidate the mountains of complicated insurance forms and paperwork.
Promote comprehensive in-home patient services. I will work to re-direct state funds to community organizations that partner with other agencies to provide in-home health care and social services. By working with the whole family in the home using a team of volunteers, registered nurses, physical therapists, and social workers, our tax dollars can go further and reduce overhead costs. By helping care-givers with relief, our tax dollars can help our neighbors take care of their aging parents or sick-ones longer and better without higher public expenses.
Lower the high cost of prescriptions.
Continue to vigorously perfect my 2018 proposal to diminish the role that Pharmacy Benefit Managers have to artificially boosting the cost of prescriptions. Utah needs to work collaboratively with other states and our major health care providers to directly negotiate with drug companies cutting out the exorbitant cost of intermediary powerbrokers to reduce the excessive cost of prescription drugs. Continue with and adopt our current State Representative's two-year effort including Utah House Bill 272 (2020) to cut out the middleman. ("Lawmakers introduce bills to drive down cost of prescription drugs, " Davis Clipper, February 13, 2020).
Provide informative brochures informing customers of their right to ask pharmacists about alternative “lower-cost” medications without insurance. One study reported that out of 9.5 million claims submitted that in 23% of the cases that people could have saved money if they had not used their insurance but just paid cash or used a credit card for their prescription ("Senate panel to consider ban on prescription drug 'gag clauses,' The Hill, May 23, 2018). But the pharmacy industry lobbied and had Congress pass into law a Gag Order to help keep their profits. Utah needs to offer more options to residents to obtain cheaper medically safe drugs even if from out of the United States. We will no longer be held hostage to the bloated health care system.