By Chris Christiansen and Bill Crim
For the Deseret News
Are you currently healthy?
Are you and your spouse healthy enough to work? Are your children healthy enough to focus during the school day?
For many Utahns, taking a sick day means losing earnings to pay for groceries. A sudden emergency room visit could result in a student falling further behind in reading or math. Weeks of ongoing treatment for an undiagnosed condition could put an entire family in financial jeopardy.
Health is easily taken for granted until you or your loved one doesn’t have it anymore.
At United Way of Salt Lake, we believe access to affordable, quality health care contributes to success in every facet of someone’s life. Routine checkups, screenings, and other preventive care keeps adults working to support their families and students in school to reach their academic potential. This is why we are supporting Proposition 3 this November.
We see the impact lack of health care can have on communities every day. Only 55 percent of the low-income families we work with have a regular place for health care. We see how struggling to read the chalkboard, a chronic toothache or an untreated illness can directly affect a student’s ability to focus and learn in the classroom.
We also see the impact statewide through the calls we receive at 2-1-1, Utah’s Health and Human Services Information and Referral System operated by United Ways in Utah. In the past year, 2-1-1 received nearly 14,000 requests for referrals for oral health, mental health, substance abuse treatment, health care, and health insurance. This number only accounts for interactions on the phone, which are only a third of 2-1-1’s interactions with Utahns.
Health has become a barrier to a good education for thousands of students in our community, and we must do better. Prop. 3 would expand Medicaid coverage to more than 150,000 low-income Utahns — a change that would directly improve the lives of many families in our partner communities.
From a business standpoint, expanding Medicaid is a smart financial decision for taxpayers. We should want to pay for care before someone gets too sick so those dollars can do the most good at the lowest cost. It’s not smart business to pay after the fact for the most expensive treatments that might be too late for workers.
The price we’d pay to make this a reality for thousands of Utahns is minimal. A small sales tax increase — about 3 cents on every $20 spent by Utahns on non-food items — is all it would take.
If passed this November, Utah would join the ranks of more than 30 states that are putting the basic needs of children and families first. We will be among other states making decisions that can benefit every man, woman, and child regardless of their current means.
A “yes” vote on Nov. 6 means more children can work toward a brighter future without a sudden accident or illness halting their progress. Supporting Prop. 3 keeps more Utahns working and contributing to the growth of our great state. The old saying goes, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Voting “yes” to Prop. 3 will lift the burden of uncertainty from our friends, neighbors, and co-workers fretting over the cost of health care for themselves and their families.
Let’s rise with the tide that allows more Utahns to work, learn and live more fulfilling and healthy lives. Support Proposition 3 on Nov. 6.