The Salt Lake County Council has unanimously approved an audit of its mental health care system.  The decision comes after Valley Mental Health announced it would no longer serve hundreds of patients due to a reduction in funding.

Salt Lake County Council Chairman Steve Debry says he and other council members learned that Valley Mental Health would be shrinking its patient rolls by reading the newspaper.

“We were caught off guard and by surprise. To put it mildly, we’re upset with it,” Debry says.  

KUER News Pod: Friday Juney 7 , 2013

Jun 7, 2013

Utah officials look to Arkansas for ideas on Medicaid expansion, a state lawmaker’s bill could take children away from murder suspects, and the Utah House of Representatives prepares themselves for the possibility of impeachment proceedings against Attorney General John Swallow.

Utah officials are keeping a close eye on Arkansas as they consider whether to expand Medicaid in the state. The Utah Department of Health held an informational conference call Thursday with Arkansas’ Medicaid Director Andy Allison. Members of Utah’s Medicaid Expansion community workgroup see promise in Arkansas’ unique model. It gives eligible low-income residents Medicaid expansion dollars to buy private health insurance. 

KUER News Pod: Friday May 24, 2013

May 24, 2013

A long awaited report shows that Utah could save millions of dollars by expanding Medicaid, the Boy Scouts of America vote to include gay youth, and Latter-day Saints remember the life of Frances Monson.

Andrea Smardon

Utah could save millions of dollars and provide health insurance to about 123,000 people if the state expands Medicaid. That was the conclusion of an independent cost-benefit analysis commissioned by the state. 

Utah lawmakers are considering a bill that would encourage citizens to buy private long-term care insurance. More than 35 states already have this type of public-private partnership.   

Utah insurance broker Craig Oberle told the state Health and Human Services committee that people don’t like to think about long term care, and how much it might cost.

“We all know the baby boom generation and what’s happening, it’s an absolute tsunami that’s coming,” Oberle said.

KUER News Pod: Wednesday April 24, 2013

Apr 24, 2013

The public turns out in droves to discuss the Sugar House Streetcar, Great Salt Lake Minerals is scaling back their expansion plans, and the Medicaid Community Workgroup meets at the capitol for the first time.

Andrea Smardon

A select group of healthcare providers, advocates, and community leaders met at the State Capitol Tuesday to discuss Medicaid, and the state’s pending decision on whether to expand the program to include more uninsured, low-income Utahns. Utah Department of Health Executive Director David Patton brought together about 20 people for the Medicaid workgroup.

The Utah Department of Health announced that it will allow open enrollment for its health coverage plan known as Primary Care Network or PCN.  The plan is designed to provide low income people and families with preventative care options, but there are many services it does not cover.

PCN has been closed to enrollment since March 2012, but enough funding currently exists to allow for open enrollment over the next three to four weeks.  Kolbi Young is a spokesperson for the Utah Department of Health.

Lawmakers Set Course for Medicaid Decision

Mar 14, 2013

Wednesday night, the Utah Senate guaranteed that Governor Gary Herbert will play a key role in deciding if the state will expand its Medicaid program. Lawmakers in both chambers approved  a substitute bill that now sets guidelines for how the Governor will make his decision.

The Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act permits states to opt out of the law's Medicaid expansion, and that’s what Utah House lawmakers aim to do with House Bill 391. The bill would ban Utah’s governor and the Department of Health from expanding the Medicaid program. It passed the Utah House of Representatives this morning and now heads to the Senate where it faces opposition from leadership. 

Medicaid Battle Looming

Mar 8, 2013
Dan Bammes

  A battle could be shaping up in the Utah House of Representatives over a bill that would stop the state from expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. 

Bill Advances to Stop Medicaid Expansion

Mar 7, 2013

A bill that would stop the state of Utah from expanding its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act passed a committee vote Wednesday evening.

Supporters Rally for Medicaid Expansion

Mar 1, 2013
Dan Bammes

  Supporters of expanding Utah’s Medicaid program under the President’s health care plan don’t expect to see a decision during the legislative session.   But they came to Utah's state capitol Friday to make their point anyway.  

There were about a hundred people on the capitol steps for a rally in support of Medicaid expansion, but many more links in the paper chains they brought along.  Each of the 150-thousand links represents a Medicaid client in Utah – somebody like Stacey Stanford, who’s been in a wheelchair since a car accident in 2010.

Terry Gildea

Utah Democrats in the state legislature called on Governor Gary Herbert today to move forward with increasing Medicaid coverage. States have the option to expand their programs under the Affordable Care Act.  

KUER News Pod: Friday February 22, 2013

Feb 22, 2013

Utah Governor Gary Herbert addresses Medicaid expansion, guns, and the sequester at his monthly news conference, the Legislature debates a suicide prevention bill, and former Governor Jon Huntsman says he supports gay marriage.

Herbert: Medicaid Decision Delayed

Feb 21, 2013
pool photo

  Utah Governor Gary Herbert says a decision on expanding Utah's Medicaid program may have to wait until this summer.  Herbert told his monthly news conference on KUED Thursday morning that Utah won't follow the lead of any other state on the issue.

UDOH Cost/Benefit Report on Medicaid Expansion Delayed

Feb 18, 2013

The Utah Department of Health says that the privately contracted cost/benefit analysis of the optional Medicaid expansion is still not complete. The Social Services joint appropriations committee had planned to hear the report Tuesday morning.

KUER News Pod: Thursday February 14, 2013

Feb 14, 2013

A new report says that Utah would benefit from Medicaid expansion, protests continue over Utah’s poor air quality, and Dixie State College is on it’s way to becoming a University.

A new report shows that Utah’s economy would benefit from an expansion of Medicaid, creating thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in economic activity. 

The report comes from the national nonprofit organization Families USA and Utah Health Policy Project.  UHPP Director Judi Hilman told KUER an expansion of Medicaid will allow millions of federal dollars to flow into Utah, stimulating the economy.

Andrea Smardon

Healthcare advocates converged on the Capitol Friday to encourage lawmakers to expand Medicaid to more low income residents, but state lawmakers held off on debate for now, and said the Governor will have to make the decision. 

Family physician Ray Ward kicked off the meeting of the Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee with an impassioned plea for the expansion of Medicaid to cover an estimated 145,000 more low-income Utahns.

Brian Grimmett

Newly elected Utah Senate President Wayne Neiderhauser opened the 2013 Legislative session by urging senators to be fiscally responsible.

In his opening remarks Senate President Wayne Neiderhauser warned his fellow senators to be careful not to believe they can create money out of thin air as they go about tackling some of Utah’s tough budget issues. He says he hopes to see legislators pass laws that work in the long term, especially when it comes to education funding.

KUER News Pod: Friday January 18, 2013

Jan 18, 2013

Controversy stirs around the Dixie State College name change, the Utah Department of Health once again loses Medicaid patient data, and a 92-year-old World War II veteran finally receives his war medals after waiting more than 60 years.

Andrea Smardon

The Utah Department of Health says human error caused the most recent data breach, where the personal information of 6000 Medicaid clients was lost on a thumb drive. 

The mistake was made by an employee of a third-party contractor, Goold Health Systems, which processes pharmacy claims for Utah’s Medicaid program. State Health Department spokesman Tom Hudachko said the employee should never have downloaded data onto an unencrypted thumb drive. 

KUER News Pod: Monday January 7, 2012

Jan 7, 2013

Governor Gary Herbert is sworn into his first full term, newly elected State Auditor John Dougall sits down and talks with KUER’s Dan Bammes, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services gives conditional approval to Utah’s health exchange.

KUER News Pod: Friday January 4, 2013

Jan 4, 2013

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services gives Utah conditional approval for their state run health exchange, a University of Utah program tries to give children with Autism a better quality of life, and the Holly Oil Refinery in Woods Cross gets approval to expand.

KUER News Pod: Monday December 17, 2012

Dec 17, 2012

An Ogden family mourns the loss of their child in the aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting, the Utah Department of Health looks into the costs of expanding Medicaid, and Salt Lake County approves a 16% tax increase.

The Utah Department of Health has hired an outside firm to study the costs and benefits of expanding Medicaid in the state.  The department has been gathering feedback from the public on what should be considered in the study. 

Christina Osburn has a brain tumor and epilepsy.  She’s been on Medicaid for more than 10 years, but she expects to lose that coverage because her income will soon exceed the threshold to qualify.   

Governor's Budget Omits Funding for Medicaid Expansion

Dec 12, 2012
Andrea Smardon

Some healthcare advocates were disappointed Wednesday to find out that Governor Gary Herbert did not include funding for the expansion of Medicaid in his proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Governor Herbert spoke very little about healthcare in his budget presentation except to say that he is proceeding with caution. 

Crossroads Connects Hunger and High Cost of Healthcare

Nov 30, 2012

Low-income advocates are asking Governor Gary Herbert to remember Utahns who can’t afford basic healthcare this holiday season.  On Friday, staff from Crossroads Urban Center and some uninsured Utahns presented results from a survey showing the connection between hunger and high healthcare costs. 

Crossroads Urban Center surveyed more than 300 of the people they helped with food this year. Marjorie Hurder is a Social Justice Advocate at the Center, and she conducted many of the interviews.