Andrea Smardon

Reporter

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World.  Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Boston.com.  Prior to that, she worked at Seattle’s NPR affiliate KUOW.  Andrea’s stories cover the local to the global - from controversial school committee votes to dissident Burmese hip hop artists.  She holds a Bachelors degree in English and Music from Wesleyan University in Connecticut.  Andrea says she misses the ocean, but is happy to be surrounded by mountains.

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Many faith leaders in Utah have been vocal about encouraging lawmakers to expand Medicaid in the state. But the dominant faith – the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – has been silent when it comes to the Affordable Care Act. In the meantime, one LDS ward in downtown Salt Lake City is quietly working to help congregants get access to health insurance.

Utah consumers are being asked to help eliminate unnecessary healthcare by questioning their doctors. A campaign called Choosing Wisely Utah is holding public discussions to encourage conversations between patients and physicians about avoiding treatments that add little or no benefit. The first of these discussions with health experts is at the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.  

US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is encouraging rural Utahns to sign up for health insurance before the federal deadline on Monday. Secretary Vilsack says that Utahns who live in rural areas have a lot to gain from the federal Affordable Care Act.

Andrea Smardon

The Dean of the University of Utah’s School of Medicine was in Washington DC Tuesday testifying before a House appropriations subcommittee which included Representative Chris Stewart of Utah’s 2nd District. Dr. Vivian Lee requested an increase in medical research and education funding in the federal budget.

Salt Lake City is officially the home of the first Impact Hub in Utah. The HUB concept – which brings together social innovators and entrepreneurs - started in London and is now a global network spanning five continents. The space in Salt Lake isn’t ready yet, but organizers have a temporary space in the meantime. They call it a Pop-up HUB.

An Impact HUB is a place for innovators to do their work, but the marketing and operations director for HUB Salt Lake Ryan Chatterton will tell you, it’s more than that.

Photograph by Trisha Empey

East High School in Salt Lake City is widely known for being the film location of the Disney movie High School Musical. Now the public school is making its mark in the world of art. When the closing school bell rings Friday afternoon - a public art exhibit will be installed on an exterior wall of East High School. It’s intended to spark conversation about Utah’s cultural diversity, and it’s part of a global art project known as Inside Out.

Andrea Smardon

Utah’s ski industry leaders want to connect seven ski resorts in the Wasatch mountains. Ski Utah held a press conference Wednesday along with the general managers from the resorts to outline the interconnect concept.

Ski Utah President Nathan Rafferty says it’s not a specific plan yet, but a concept. They call it One Wasatch, and the goal is to create the most efficient and enjoyable interconnected mountain resort ski experience in North America.

Andrea Smardon

Clean air advocates released their grades for Utah lawmakers Tuesday. Compared to past legislative sessions, lawmakers showed improvement, but advocates say there is still a lot of work to be done. 

Andrea Smardon

UPDATE: Additional candidates who have filed for the 4th Congressional District include Bill Peterson (DEM), Bob Fuehr (REP), and Jim Vein (LIB).

The race for Utah Congressman Jim Matheson’s seat is on. Republican Mia Love and Democrat Doug Owens both filed Monday to represent the 4th District. Love narrowly lost to Matheson in the last election, and claims to be a better candidate than she was in 2012. But Owens insists he could still pull off a win.

Image from DonkeyHotey / https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/

State Republican and Democratic Party Caucuses are this week. People will gather in neighborhoods across Utah to discuss candidates and issues and to elect their neighborhood delegate. Tuesday is the Democratic Party Caucus. Republicans meet on Thursday. Anna Thompson is the Communications Director for the Democratic Party. She says this is the smallest organizing unit in any election, so it’s very important for everyone to become involved.

Brian Grimmett

  Another Utah legislative session has ended without a decision on Medicaid, but Governor Gary Herbert and healthcare advocates are declaring a victory of sorts.

Late in the session, Governor Herbert came out with his long-awaited proposal to get health coverage for Utah’s poorest citizens. He wants to use federal dollars to buy private coverage for low-income Utahns, but he first needs approval from the federal government. He asked state lawmakers not to limit him with any legislation that would hinder negotiations with the feds.

University of Utah

A bill to reform the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative (USTAR) is heading to the governor’s desk for his approval. The legislation comes after an audit found that the program exaggerated the number of jobs created.

File: Governor Gary Herbert
Utah Education Network

Time is running out for the Utah legislature to make a decision on what they want to do about health insurance for low-income Utahns.  There are several health reform proposals in the legislature that have yet to be approved, with only four working days left in the session. But at this point, the governor has the power to move forward with his plan, so long as lawmakers don’t stand in his way.

Andrea Smardon

Governor Gary Herbert got some positive feedback Thursday on his plan to offer health insurance to low-income Utahns. Herbert visited a homeless health clinic in Salt Lake City and heard from citizens who do not qualify for insurance subsidies, but also do not qualify for Medicaid, leaving them in a coverage gap.

The Utah legislature has approved a compromise solution between the backers of a direct primary system and those who want to preserve the current caucus-convention system.

Andrea Smardon

Small businesses now have access to funding that will help improve air quality. The UCAIR Air Assist program offers funds to small businesses to buy equipment upgrades that will reduce emissions. The first grant recipient is an auto body shop in Salt Lake City.

ACS Precision Finish is using about $15,000 of state money to upgrade from a solvent to a water-based paint system. Corey Kaggie, a painter in the shop, is dressed in a white protective body suit, goggles, and a face mask. She says the new paint certainly smells better.

Parents who homeschool their children in Utah will not be required to follow any state curriculum guidelines under a bill that passed the state Senate Monday. The debate centered around whose responsibility it is to see that children are educated – parents or the government.

The bill’s sponsor Republican Aaron Osmond explained to the Senate that parents who teach their children at home do not want to be constrained by state curriculum guidelines, and that some of the parents are concerned about the influence of national Common Core Standards in Utah.

Brian Grimmett

When Governor Gary Herbert laid out his Healthy Utah plan Thursday he said he was confident that it would get support from the state legislature as well as the federal government.  But the governor’s proposal to accept federal money to help low-income Utahns buy health insurance may meet some resistance from Republicans in the state House…. especially the House speaker.

Brian Grimmett

Governor Gary Herbert announced his long-awaited plan Thursday concerning Medicaid and health coverage for the poorest Utahns. He’s calling it Healthy Utah.

The Supreme Court decided in 2012 to let states choose whether to expand Medicaid as it was intended under the Affordable Care Act. Now, more than a year and a half later, after reviewing proposals from the state house, the senate, and panels of stakeholders, Governor Herbert finally revealed his plan.

Photo courtesy Foxboro residents

Environmental investigators working with Erin Brockovich have uncovered some new evidence that hazardous chemicals are accumulating in the homes of those who live close to Stericycle’s medical waste incinerator in North Salt Lake.  An investigator from the Brockovich team and community advocates met with Governor Gary Herbert Wednesday to share their findings.

Brian Shiozawa
Brian Grimmett

A Republican state senator has put forth a proposal for a partial expansion of Medicaid in Utah. Senate majority leaders say they are meeting Wednesday night to decide whether they will get behind this proposal, a different House plan that rejects Medicaid dollars, or another solution all together. 

Republican Senator Brian Shiozawa is an Emergency Room doctor. So he’s all too familiar with the coverage gap - those 54,000 Utahns who live in poverty and can’t get health insurance.

Brian Grimmett/KUER file photo

A Republican proposal to provide health coverage for those under the poverty line has advanced to the House floor for consideration, but lawmakers in charge of the budget say there is no money for it at this point, and time is running out to accept any new requests.

Mitt Romney has endorsed the Count My Vote initiative in Utah, but Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT3) said Monday he is opposed to changing the state’s nomination process from a caucus-convention system to direct primaries. In his annual address to the state legislature, Chaffetz told lawmakers he could never have beat incumbent Chris Cannon without the caucus system. He said he didn’t have big name ID, and he didn’t have big money, but he did spend time talking with delegates.

Brian Grimmett

A bill that would prohibit the permitting of new medical waste incinerators within two miles of a residential community passed a legislative committee Friday, and now heads to the state Senate for consideration. A Republican lawmaker’s bill has succeeded where a Democrat’s bill failed.

Andrea Smardon

Hundreds of people are expected at the Utah State Capitol Thursday afternoon to rally for those with substance abuse and mental health disorders. Advocates will be calling attention to a shortage in public funding for treatment, and they’ll be asking lawmakers to expand Medicaid.

Brian Grimmett

Republican state lawmakers have come up with a proposal to provide health insurance for those who fall below the poverty line, but it does not expand Medicaid in the state. Democrats say rejecting those federal dollars is irresponsible.

An adoption agency in American Fork has been put on notice that the state plans to revoke its license. In September last year, the Office of Licensing for the Utah Department of Human Services told The Adoption Center of Choice to correct various operating problems. An extensive list of violations includes missing documentation, failure to account for expenditures made on behalf of birth mothers, and failure to conduct home studies before placement of babies.

Andrea Smardon / KUER News

Environmental activists and concerned residents rallied in front of Governor Gary Herbert’s office Thursday to let him know that they would not be satisfied until Stericycle’s medical waste incinerator in North Salt Lake is shut down.  A recent health report by the state, and news that the company may move its incinerator to Tooele County have not changed protestors' minds.

The Affordable Care Act is in effect across the country, but some Utahns are finding that they still don’t have any options for health insurance. As part of an ongoing series, KUER looks at those find themselves in this coverage gap. In today’s installment, we meet a 32-year-old who is in the process of coming out as transgender.

The Affordable Care Act is in effect across the country, but some Utahns are finding that they still don’t have any options for health insurance. As part of an ongoing series, KUER looks at those in this coverage gap. In today’s installment, we meet a 32-year-old who is in the process of coming out as transgender.

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