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The City Journals

National Think Tank Director Speaks to Baker’s Dozen in Herriman

Sep 18, 2015 07:33PM ● By Rhett Wilkinson

Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute, said that part of his job is to talk with people about health policy.

By Rhett Wilkinson

South Valley - A director of a national libertarian group flew in from Washington to the J.L. Sorenson Recreation Center Sept. 9 in Herriman, where an estimated baker’s dozen number of folks not affiliated with Americans for Prosperity awaited his anti-Medicaid expansion address.
Another half-dozen or so identified with AFP. An opposing group, Cover the Gap, invited supporters, but it was not known if any attended the event featuring Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute.

AFP opened a chapter in Utah in the thick of deliberations on Utah’s Capitol Hill about expanding Medicaid, which is being paid for by taxpayers under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, in Utah. Cover the Gap is an initiative to expand Medicaid and run out of the office of the Utah Health Policy Project.
For three years, experts outside the state have visited to explain why Medicaid should be expanded, Cover the Gap Director RyLee Curtis said.
“We’ve been educating folks on this issue with countless numbers of people,” she said, “and we’ve had so many polls done indicating public support about closing the coverage gap and bringing tax dollars home.”
Cannon spoke at the library at the invitation of the Libertas Institute after he committed to address the Federal Society BYU chapter, he said.
"Part of my job is talking with people about health policy,” he said. “The folks at Libertas asked about Medicaid expansion and said ‘you should talk about this.’”
Curtis added that the out-of-state visitors in favor of Medicaid expansion have identified as both Republican and Democrat and just helped with a “Utah solution created by Utah legislators.” In the 2015 legislative session, a law nicknamed Healthy Utah passed in the Senate but not the House after a battle about it being voted on in that chamber.
Cannon offered several points in the meeting opposing expansion.
After the function, Cannon told the South Valley Journal that Utah Gov. Gary Herbert wants to “increase federal spending” even though the federal treasury department will have to borrow money.
The “fact of the matter” is that that the state of Utah doesn’t pay less taxes because it hasn’t expanded Medicaid, Curtis said.
“The taxes are being paid anyway and they’re choosing not to take care of their own,” she said. “It’s sitting there, waiting for us.”
“The idea that Utah needs to get its fair share or leave the money on the table is incorrect,” Cannon said. “The decision facing Utah officials is to implement Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion or not.”
The governor was not “on board” when presented the option of accepting the PPACA’s tax mandate nor was he when a non-partisan study came out that showed expansion was beneficial across the board before coming up with a plan that “would work for the state of Utah,” Curtis said.
Rep. Dan McCay was in attendance from the start of the event and other legislators joined later, Cannon said.
Utahns are split as to whether lawmakers will still be able to come up with the right Medicaid expansion plan that fits Utah’s needs, according to a Utah Policy poll.

Note: The author has previously been engaged in Medicaid expansion efforts.