Health Care

Governor Herbert Issues Health Challenge

Sep 25, 2012
Andrea Smardon

Governor Gary Herbert is hoping his quest to lose a little weight will inspire other Utahns to get healthy.  Herbert launched a challenge Tuesday at his second annual Health Summit.   The Governor’s ‘Choose Health’ Challenge is a 10-week long program where state leaders are invited to compete with the Governor in adopting healthy behaviors. 

At the Governor’s own personal health assessment next to the ballroom of the Grand America Hotel, Herbert removed his shoes and jacket for a Body Mass Index measurement, and his finger was pricked more than once for a blood sample.

Diet and exercise alone may not be enough to help people who are severely overweight. A new study by researchers at LDS Hospital and the University of Utah School of Medicine shows that patients who have gastric bypass surgery are much more likely to maintain weight loss and reduce their risk for serious disease than obese individuals who don’t have the surgery.

Utah's Medicaid Overhaul Challenged as Deadlines Loom

Sep 11, 2012

The State Department of Health is moving forward on an overhaul of the Medicaid system despite opposition.  Utah’s new managed care contracts are designed to save the state money and are slated to go into effect in January, but some health advocates say the proposed contracts do not ensure quality care for patients.  And the state’s Inspector General says the contracts do not ensure proper oversight of Medicaid funds.  KUER’s Andrea Smardon reports.   

Health Officials Warn of West Nile Virus Threat

Aug 30, 2012

As West Nile virus spreads across the country, Utah health officials are advising residents to use bug repellant this holiday weekend.  So far three cases of West Nile virus have been reported in Utah.  Two were contracted out of state, but one was caught in Box Elder County.   JoDee Baker is an epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health.  She says West Nile has been detected in a number of mosquito pools around the state.

The Utah Department of Health released new data Wednesday estimating that more than 13 percent of the population went without health insurance last year.  That’s about 3 percentage points higher than the previous year, but health officials say the increase is at least partly due to improved survey methods. 

UDOH spokesperson Tom Hudachko says you can’t make a fair comparison between numbers in 2010 and 2011 because state survey methods were changed significantly.  For example, pollsters are now calling cellphones instead of just land lines. 

Some doctors are criticizing the state’s newly-released plan to help those with asthma.  The plan advises asthmatics to avoid pollution, but the President of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment Brian Moench says that’s not enough.

Lawmakers Decide on Benchmark Health Insurance Plan

Aug 17, 2012

The state’s Health System Reform Task Force has decided on essential health benefits that all insurance companies must cover.  Lawmakers argued that the benchmark plan should cover the bare minimum to keep it affordable, but some advocates are concerned that it falls short in some areas.

Andrea Smardon

Salt Lake County Aging Services is offering a new series of classes for those who take care of elderly family members in their home.  It’s called Caregiver Academy.  This evening, the Academy is offering a class geared to help those dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.  This story looks at the particular challenges and needs of family caregivers.

Today volunteers from the University of Utah Health Care Program helped fix up homes that house young adults who are aging out of Foster Care.

An independent analysis finds Utah’s Medicaid program is using state resources efficiently.  The findings were released this week by Voices for Utah Children, a nonpartisan, advocacy organization. 

The report’s author Allison Rowland thinks the data on Medicaid tells a different story than the rhetoric often heard from politicians. 

Andrea Smardon

The Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City cut the ribbon Friday on its new Mental Health Outpatient Building.  As troops return from Iraq and Afghanistan, VA officials say the number of combat troops seeking help is growing. 

Steve Young is the Director of Mental Health Services for the VA in Salt Lake City.  He says the building they’ve been operating in for 20 years is basically a bunch of old trailers without wheels.

Thursday marked the fifteenth anniversary of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. Voices for Utah Children marked the occasion by releasing a book that highlights various families who have benefitted from the program.

Joy Pizzuto is a single mother of three daughters, all of whom were uninsured until 2007. Three years later, her 10-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and just last year her 13-year-old discovered she had epilepsy. Pizzuto says CHIP has had a significant effect on her ability to afford the necessary healthcare.

Brian Grimmett

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act put the decision of whether or not to expand Medicaid coverage up to each individual state. Medicaid eligibility can be a very complex issue but at its most basic level is based upon household income as a percentage of the Federal Poverty Level. For a family of four the federal poverty level is set at $23,050. You can see the current income limits based on the FPL in the graph below.

Andrea Smardon

After the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act, states are faced with a decision on whether to expand Medicaid eligibility.  Utah remains undecided.  In the last story in our series, The Future of Medicaid in Utah, we look at how the decision affects all of us as taxpayers and healthcare consumers. 

Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that states can choose for themselves whether to expand Medicaid. In Utah, that would mean coverage for 50,000 uninsured people. Governor Gary Herbert has called federal health care reform "bad policy," but Utah is waiting until the 2013 legislative session to decide. Monday, KUER begins a series on the future of Medicaid in Utah and reporters Terry Gildea and Andrea Smardon join Doug to explore these questions: Can Utah afford to expand Medicaid? Can it afford not to?

Kyle and Chelsea Woodruff
Woodruff family

The expansion of Medicaid as outlined in the Affordable Care Act is designed to give more people access to healthcare services. Without the expansion, a portion of the Utah’s population living on the edge of poverty may remain uninsured. But some believe that Medicaid doesn’t do enough for those who are already enrolled. In part 3 of our series, The Future of Medicaid in Utah we examine the gap in services already provided and the coverage gap that will continue to exist if Medicaid is not expanded.

Bobbi Mathews with a photo of her daughter Katie
Dan Bammes

Utah lawmakers will decide in their next legislative session whether or not to expand Medicaid under the guidelines outlined in the Affordable Care Act.  Unlike Medicare, which is a federal program for the elderly, Medicaid is a partnership with states that provides a healthcare safety net for those in need.

But qualifying for Medicaid is not automatic.  The income and eligibility requirements are complex and the state employs dozens of people to help make those determinations.

Clarissa Blakmer
Whittney Evans

Utah lawmakers are faced with a big decision: to expand or not to expand the Medicaid program. But what do we know about the program? What do people in Utah think they know about the program? And what is life like for those getting help from the program have been transformed by Medicaid?  In part one of our series The Future of Medicaid in Utah, we set out to answer these and other important questions.

“Older people, freebies, handout’s,” says Salt Lake City resident Jeff Steal.

But Steal might have a bit of a simplistic view of the program.


Utah Congressman Rob Bishop is pushing for legislation that would reform the current Medicaid program.  The State Health Flexibility Act would introduce a federal block grant program designed to be administered by the states. 

The recent Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act determined that states can maintain current levels of Medicaid funding, even if they do not expand the population that is eligible for coverage.  Congressman Rob Bishop sees an opportunity.

Female Veterans who live outside of Salt Lake City will now be able to take advantage of services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs in Salt Lake City, thanks to new teleconferencing technology within the Medical Center’s Women’s Veteran Program.

“So, Marie, my name is Dr. Rose. I’m the gynecologist at the Salt Lake City VA and you are visiting us from Elko?” says Dr. Susan Rose as she demonstrates a long distance consultation with a female veteran in Elko, Nevada.

Utah’s Congressional delegation all voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the U.S. House Wednesday including Democrat Jim Matheson.

Republicans Jason Chaffetz and Rob Bishop voted along party lines, but Matheson was one of only five Democrats who voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Matheson says he has consistently opposed the bill.

Utah Lawmakers Undecided on Medicaid Expansion

Jul 10, 2012

Since the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, governors in four states have declared they will not expand Medicaid. Utah is currently undecided. State lawmakers met Tuesday to review the Supreme Court’s decision - and Utah’s options.

Republican Representative James Dunnigan of Taylorsville is chair of the state’s Health System Reform Task Force. He says the expansion of Medicaid is a big policy decision for Utah, and lawmakers are still gathering information. 

The Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act leaves Utah to decide for itself whether it wants to expand Medicaid. The court determined that the federal government cannot withhold states' Medicaid allotment if they don't increase their coverage levels. But the federal government can provide extra funds to those states who do choose to expand Medicaid.

Andrea Smardon

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act collected at the Capitol today to talk about what the Supreme Court ruling means for Utah. Judi Hillman, Executive Director for the Utah Health Policy Project, says that changes included in the ACA can now move forward in Utah – including insurance for those with pre-existing conditions.

Utah lawmakers signed a compact this year that allows the state to opt out of federal health care reform and find its own solution to health care funding problems.  But Utah’s participation in the interstate compact may hinge on the US Supreme Court’s upcoming decision on the Affordable Care Act. 

Utah Families to Receive Insurance Rebate Checks

Jun 21, 2012

Insurance companies across the country will be sending out rebate checks to their customers this summer affecting more than 40,000 Utah families. But the decision is tied to the federal health care which could soon be altered by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Utahns Asked for Input on Essential Health Benefits

Jun 18, 2012

Utahns on individual or small business health plans have a chance to weigh in on the conditions and services they think should be covered by insurance.  The Utah Health System Reform Task Force will be taking public comment Tuesday afternoon on its Essential Health Benefit Package.  The federal Affordable Care Act requires that Utah choose among 10 different packages that will determine the bas

Utah’s new health data security ombudsman says more people are signing up for credit monitoring after a state data breach exposed the personal information of 780,000 people, but there are still parts of the population who are not protected.

Summer vacation is here, and that means many low-income Utah children may be missing meals that were provided for free or reduced price in school. A national report from the Food Research and Action Center shows that Utah is doing slightly better than the national average at feeding these children through the summer, but that many are still falling through the cracks.

Senator Orrin Hatch Vows to Repeal Affordable Care Act

May 31, 2012
Andrea Smardon

States are awaiting a decision from the US Supreme Court on provisions of the Affordable Care Act,which will require all Americans to purchase health insurance or face a fine.  But Utah’s Republican Senator Orrin Hatch is vowing to repeal the law, regardless of the court’s decision.   Hatch and Wyoming Senator John Barrasso spoke at a meeting of the Salt Lake Chamber’s Health Reform Task Force Wednesday morning.