Members of the Alliance for a Better Utah placed 361 crosses in the Utah Capitol lawn Wednesday, Oct. 21, as a call for Medicaid expansion. The members of the board called for greater action on the part of the legislature and stronger leaders who are willing to stand and make a difference.
Utah has been working to expand its Healthcare system ever since Obamacare was first announced. The idea was originally passed by Utah State Congress, but never read to the Senate. The bill was discussed in various closed session meetings before being closed as “killed” without an outcome, according to David Irvine, board member of the Alliance for a Better Utah.
“This is simply unacceptable in one of the richest countries in the world and in the state that prides itself on being caring and compassionate,” Irvine said.
According to the Alliance for a Better Utah, researchers have estimated 361 people could be saved from death each year through an expansion of Medicaid.
Jonathan Ruga, Member of the Alliance for a Better Utah, said there is also a $100 million surplus this year and a rainy day fund of almost half a billion dollars which “could easily be used for Medicaid expansion and a vast majority of Utahns want to pass this expansion.”
The press conference started as a somber funeral service for all those who have died due to lack of healthcare benefits. There are currently 126,000 Utahns waiting for Medicaid coverage according to Irvine. The Alliance for a Better Utah placed 361 white crosses in the ground to symbolize those who have died this year from lack of Medicaid attention. The group plans to add a new cross every two days to represent all those who will die before Thanksgiving.
The protesters focused on the need for stronger leaders in government positions who will make decisions and work for change.
“Being a great leader, a transformational leader, is more than just sitting in a big chair and calling meetings to order,” Irvine said. “It demands courage, vision, creativity, persuasion, empathy and the political skills necessary to lead the leaders of power to rally in the right direction.”
The Alliance for a Better Utah called for the public’s help. The organization claimed it believes to truly cause government officials to act, the community must band together to show the government this issue is important.
“Call Mr. Hues, email him, knock on his door. Tell him that he has a responsibility of leadership,” Ruga said. “He has a responsibility to make Medicaid expansion a reality for those Utahns that so desperately need it and tell him if he fails to do so, we will elect someone who is concerned about others, to represent all of us.”
According to Crystal Young-Otterstrom, committee member of the Alliance for a Better Utah, “The money for expanding Medicaid has already been raised.”
When Pres. Obama originally announced Obamacare, the government became required to pay for all Medicaid expansion projects and cover 90 percent of the costs for the following years.
New plans for Medicaid expansion are being discussed by the Utah government. Thus far no agreement has been reached.