SALT LAKE CITY —Among the many bills Utah legislators are due to consider during the 2019 session, two in particular would repeal and/or replace Proposition 3, a measure to expand Medicaid approved by 53 percent of voters in the November election. These bills, proposed by Sen. Allen Christensen and Sen. Jake Anderegg, are of concern to the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.
“After five years of legislators fighting against any expansion, voters sent a very clear message that health care access is a priority, so much of a priority we even added to the state sales tax to pay for our brothers’ and sisters’ health care,” said Jean Hill, director of the diocesan Office of Life, Justice and Peace in her weekly Prayer & Action Network email on Jan. 28.
That same day, the first day of the legislative session, in an outcry against the senators’ proposals, hundreds of Utahns filled the Capitol’s rotunda for the Rally Against Repeal.
Speakers at the rally included some of the original sponsors of the citizen initiative, including the Right Rev. Scott B. Hayashi, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, along with cancer survivors, a liver transplant recipient and others who fall between the gaps of insurance coverage. They appealed to legislators to preserve the voter-approved Medicaid expansion; they also urged voters to contact their representatives to ask them to honor the vote of the people.
The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City has been an integral part of the fight to provide health care to hundreds of thousands of Utahns who currently fall between the cracks, including those dealing with terminal illnesses.
“To truly recognize our inherent dignity throughout life and at the end of it, each of us should receive regular mental health care, quality comfort care, and stable support systems,” said Hill, who was among those at the rally. “We know these are not regularly provided, especially to patients without health care plans.”
People from all walks of life, including other local Catholics, attended the rally.
“We believe all people have a right to health care,” Tony Schuyler, a parishioner at St. Joseph’s (Ogden) said. “In Matthew 25 … it says, ‘when I was sick, did you care for me?’ We worked for years to get this on the ballot. The people voted for it, including saying they would pay extra sales tax to pay for it.”
“We would like for them to expand Medicaid as we asked them to do with our very strong vote,” said Diana Hanebrink, another St. Joseph parishioner.
Hill urged all Catholics to contact their state representatives and ask them to protect the dignity and sanctity of life by preserving the voter-approved Medicaid expansion as voted on, and opposing SB 96 Medicaid Expansion Adjustments and SB 97 Medicaid Program Revisions.