Governor Hosts 2013 Health Summit

SALT LAKE CITY – Governor Gary R. Herbert’s annual Utah Health Summit was dominated by discussion surrounding whether the state should choose to expand its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  More than 400 business, community, education, and government leaders were on hand for the governor’s third summit, the focus of which was continuing to develop Utah-based solutions to the state’s health care challenges.

Morning panel discussions focused on the governor’s looming decision of whether the state will opt to extend Medicaid benefits to all adults who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $27,000 per year for a family of three.  Earlier this year, the governor tasked a community workgroup with delivering him a menu of options to explore in making his decision.

The Medicaid Expansion Options Community Workgroup hosted several meetings throughout the summer, where it accepted public input and analyzed several scenarios ranging from no expansion to full expansion.  The workgroup submitted its final report to the governor at the summit, it included nine potential scenarios for expansion in five key areas:
o    Full expansion
o    Partial expansion
o    Block grant waiver
o    Personal wellness and responsibility model
o    Strengthening Utah’s health care safety net system

The workgroup did not endorse any one particular option, but rather provided a menu of options for the governor to consider in seeking a home-grown solution to Utah’s unique challenges.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution that will work in all 50 states, which is what Washington is foisting on us with the misnamed Affordable Care Act,” said the Governor.  “The task this workgroup completed was huge, and I’m deeply appreciative of their contribution to this process.  I’m confident we can draw from these ideas and develop a plan that benefits all Utahns.”

The governor went on to outline several guiding principles he’ll use in arriving at a final decision: Maintaining quality, affordable, accessible healthcare for Utahns; limiting Medicaid’s impact on the state budget; ensuring individual independence in healthcare decisions; protecting Utah’s financial autonomy; and reforming Medicaid by giving more flexibility to the states.

The Summit also provided an opportunity for the Governor to unveil his updated Health Innovations Plan.  The collaborative effort being led by Lt. Governor Greg Bell and the Utah Department of Health focuses on achieving reforms in several key areas of the health care system: Health information technology, health workforce, prevention and wellness, payment reform, and patient safety and quality.

The effort was launched during the Governor’s first health summit in 2011, hundreds of leaders from the health care, business, higher education, and government sectors are working on the plan.  Representatives from each focus area reported on the successes they’ve already achieved, and plans for future efforts.

“Despite the significant challenges before us, I’m optimistic about our ability to meet them, and the actions we’ve taken here at this summit will help get us there,” the Governor concluded.