Category: Blog Post

Medicaid Expansion

Rep.  Robert Spendlove ran a bill during the 2018 legislative session, that requires the Utah Department of Health to submit a waiver request to expand Medicaid in Utah. HB 472, Medicaid Expansion Revisions, passed the Utah Legislature and was signed by Governor Gary Herbert signed into law on March 27, 2018.

HB 472 has an enrollment cap, which limits the state’s liability while offering coverage to those under 100 percent of the federal poverty level, who make too little to qualify for the ACA exchange, and without access to employer-based health insurance.

HB 472 has the potential to expand Medicaid coverage to about 60,000 Utahns with no new state funds. Rather, it shifts state money from already existing programs to this one with a greater, 90 percent federal match rate. This legislation includes a work requirement component, as well as a safeguard to automatically sunset the program if federal funding drops below the 90 percent match.

This Medicaid expansion would provide care through a managed-care model and focuses on the health of the patient rather than the number of services provided, seeking to reduce costs and increase quality of care.

 

Stay Connected

The Utah House of Representatives offers access to live and previous coverage of House floor proceedings and committee hearings from the legislative website. You can search the archive of past sessions, track bills, read proposed legislation and more at le.utah.gov.

Follow the Utah Reps on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay connected to what is happening, get a behind-the-scenes look and receive updates. You can also contact your representative here.

 

Prison Development Budget Timeline

Prison Development Budget Timeline

  • 2014
    • The decision was made to move the prison and the timing was right:
      • Existing prison determined to need at least $238 million in repairs
      • Estimates showed that state could realize billions in economic benefit by relocating the prison
    • Winter 2015
      • Cost estimates – $546 to $683 million, not including site-specific costs that would be determined upon site selection
        • Legislature appropriated $550 million ($470 bond, $80 million cash)
      • August 2015
        • Legislature approved Prison Relocation Commission’s recommendation to move the prison to Salt Lake City
          • Every site under consideration would require additional funding, and the SLC location was estimated to cost an additional $154 million
        • Spring 2016
          • Architect from DFCM worked with Department of Corrections to create prioritization program for the prison that met JRI goals, national standards and addressed potential future needs of a growing population, with a price tag of $860 million
            • This initial programming is common practice and usually exceeds anticipated budgets
          • Summer/Fall 2016
            • DFCM and Dept. of Corrections conducted a line-by-line review and reduced the cost estimate to $700 million
          • Spring 2017
            • As planned, Legislature authorized another $100 million in bonding for site-specific costs of the chosen location, bringing total allocation to $650 million
          • Summer/Fall 2017
            • In an effort to continue to reduce costs, project managers right-sized the space to meet the appropriation
            • This resulted in the current estimate of $692 million, a 19.5% reduction from highest estimate, and only $9 million more than the high end of the original 2015 estimates even when including site-specific costs that weren’t contained in those 2015 numbers
          • 2018 and Beyond
            • The current $692 million is an estimate and true costs won’t be known until it is placed for bidding
              • There remains a risk of cost escalation due to high labor demands and rising material costs
              • Over the last three years, the construction industry has realized an average 8.6% rate of inflation
            • Number will continue to be reviewed and challenged by DFCM, BDK (state’s consultant), the contractor team and the governor’s office

Adam Robertson Sworn in

Utah House District 63 officially has a new representative. Adam Robertson, a businessman who has lived in Provo for over a decade, was sworn into office today at the Utah State Capitol. Rep. Robertson will be replacing former Representative Dean Sanpei, who resigned in December to accept a position in Colorado. The district held a special election to elect a new representative and finish Dean Sanpei’s term, which ends this year.

Speaker Greg Hughes officiated the ceremony that was attended by Rep. Robertson’s wife and seven kids, among other relatives.  After the short ceremony, Speaker Hughes congratulated the Representative as he steps into his legislative role.

Utah Public Lands

On Monday, December 4, President Donald Trump announced modifications to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, after Secretary Ryan Zinke conducted a review of national monument designations and the history of the Antiquities Act earlier this year. The result is five unique national monument units that total more than 1.2 million acres.

Bears Ears will now encompass two monument areas – Shash Jáa, approximately 129,980 acres and Indian Creek, approximately 71,896 acres. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service will continue to co-manage the land. Bears Ears remains larger than Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park combined.

The new proclamation also provides increased public access to the land and restores allowance for traditional use for activities including motorized recreation, cattle grazing and tribal collection of wood and herbs.

Boundaries that remain protected include Bears Ears Buttes, the Lime Ridge Clovis Site, Moon House Ruin, Doll House Ruin, Indian Creek Rock Art and Newspaper Rock.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) will now consist of three monument areas – the Grand Staircase (209,993 acres), Kaiparowits (551,034 acres) and Escalante Canyons (242,836 acres). The three areas total more than a million acres and will be managed by the BLM.

To determine the necessary size to adequately protect significant objects and artifacts within the original designations, a thorough examination was conducted. Regions protected in the GSENM include areas of the highest concentration of fossil resources; important landscape features such as the Grand Staircase, Upper Paria Canyon System, Kaiparowits Plateau, Escalante Natural Bridge, Upper Escalante Canyons, East Kaibab Monocline, Grosvenor Arch, Old Paria Townsite and Dance Hall Rock; and relict plant communities such as No Mans Mesa.

During the review, Secretary Zinke personally visited the monuments and met with local Tribal representatives, county commissioners, residents and ranchers, as well as organizations such as the Wilderness Society and Nature Conservancy. In addition, for the first time in history, Secretary Zinke opened a formal comment period of the review of monuments designated under the Antiquities Act to individuals, providing an opportunity for many voices to be heard.

The purpose of the Antiquities Act is to protect archaeological or historical sites in the smallest area necessary. It was not intended to lock up large swathes of land. Since 1996, Utah has endured two of the most significant incidents of federal overreach regarding national monument designations in recent history.

During the 2017 session, the Utah Legislature passed, HCR 11, Concurrent Resolution Urging the President to Rescind the Bears Ears National Monument Designation and HCR 12, Concurrent Resolution Urging Federal Legislation to Reduce or Modify the Boundaries of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

President Trump and his administration demonstrated that they are listening to Utahns and the desires of those who live in the area by pulling back a small portion of the federal overreach and abuse of the Antiquities Act that our state has endured. Through this process, they have shown their willingness to give greater access to public land, while still continuing to protect significant artifacts.

This is not the first time a president has reduced a monument. Reductions have occurred at least 18 times, by both Republicans and Democrats. For instance, President John F. Kennedy altered Bandelier National Monument; Presidents Taft, Wilson, and Coolidge reduced Mount Olympus National Monument; and President Eisenhower reduced the Great Sand Dunes National Monument.

The recent modifications by the Trump administration restore local input on federal lands, increase economic opportunity, especially in rural communities through grazing, commercial fishing, logging and in certain cases, mineral development, and protect objects without unnecessarily preventing public access.

We want to sincerely thank President Trump and Secretary Zinke for listening and allowing those closest to the lands to have some input on how to best manage and care for them.

New Transportation Governance Model

The Transportation Governance and Funding Task Force met to review and discuss a potential new governance model for the state’s transportation system. This task force, the result of SB 174, Public Transit and Transportation (2017), was charged with making recommendations on transportation in the state.

They have been looking at statewide governance and organizational strategies to coordinate management and oversight of all types of transportation, and to evaluate and implement best practices.

A proposal was presented—the culmination of months of study and analysis—to replace the UTA board and president/CEO with a three-member panel and a nine-member advisory board. There would be some state control and oversight that would allow the agency to receive state Transportation Investment Fund dollars but because it would not be a complete takeover, the state would be protected from assuming UTA’s $2 billion debt.

The task force will hold at least one more meeting between now and the start of the Legislative session on January 22, 2018, where it is expected that a bill incorporating the new governance model, with additional details, will be reviewed. You can listen to the recent meeting here.

The Other Side Academy

It’s nice to know that amidst all the depressing news on the opioid crisis, homelessness and poverty, there are beacons of hope springing up across this country. One of those beacons can be found in downtown Salt Lake City, and it’s called The Other Side Academy.

The Other Side Academy is modeled after Delancey Street Foundation in San Francisco, and opened its doors in Salt Lake City in 2015. These organizations provide the tools and structure for those who’ve lived lives marred by abuse, drugs and dysfunction. According to The Other Side Academy, these individuals “don’t need rehabilitation, they need habilitation.” They likely haven’t been exposed to orderly, well-functioning ways of life. “When they want to change they don’t need more motivation in the form of threats, fines and penalties, they need more ability – mentoring, training and full-contact coaching.”

In 2015, the Utah Legislature passed the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, HB 348. This reform made changes to the way we treat criminals by assessing those charged with crimes and providing them with treatment where applicable, to allow for a more successful eventual transition back into the community. The last thing we want is for our prisons to simply provide a revolving door for those who could live successfully out in the community if they only had appropriate treatment and/or skills to be able to do so.

Treatment is one component of this reform, but providing opportunities for certain highly-motivated individuals to turn their lives around seems to fit perfectly into this idea that prison alone is not the only answer to every societal problem.

The Academy helps residents learn to work together, to be responsible and to follow through on commitments. It is self-sustaining through businesses run by participants, and they quickly learn that to eat requires work. There are no free rides. To be accepted into the program, all that is asked is for a participant to exhibit a sincere desire to change and a willingness to do the hard things that will allow that change to occur.

The Academy assisted with Phase Three of Operation Rio Grande, which focuses on the dignity of work. The plan establishes work activities, workshops, devotionals and other employment preparation activities to the daily routine of individuals residing in the Rio Grande area.

Read the story that started it all here.

 

 

 

 

 

Representatives visit University of Utah Health

Representatives have the opportunity to hear and see presentations about the remarkable effort that is being completed by many notable organizations, non-profits and companies during committee meetings. Though, to gain an even better understanding, Representatives at the Utah House want to not only just hear about it but also observe it. One of the best ways to learn more about the excellent services Utahns are performing is to personally experience an organizations environment and operation that takes place on a day to day basis.

Speaker Greg Hughes, Rep. Steve Eliason and DEA supervisory special agent Brian Besser visited the University of Utah Health (UofU Health) facilities on Thursday, Nov. 2. The purpose of the visit was to get a firsthand look at the exceptional work accomplished by the dedicated staff who are striving to provide excellent care to individuals often during one of the most challenging moments of their lives.

We appreciate the dedicated doctors, nurses, scientists and staff who thanklessly aim to provide the best care and service to Utahns and those in and around the country.

During the visit, they visited the Burn Trauma Intensive Care Unit, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), the AirMed team, Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy and Entertainment Arts and Engineering department.

The dean of the College of Pharmacy discussed the cutting-edge opioid addiction research with a zebrafish that is being conducted to understand the drug-seeking behavior better. The purpose is to  come up with solutions to help fight this epidemic. Learn more about the study here.

 

The NICU combines highly trained healthcare professionals and advanced technology to provide care for the tiniest patients in need of intensive medical attention. The medical team works tirelessly and is a vital component for the health and developmental well-being of premature or sick infants. Babies delivered at 24 weeks have a 90 percent survival rate at the UofU Health NICU.

Treating burn injuries can be a challenging and lengthy process. The Burn Trauma Intensive Care Unit, which includes physicians, nurses, counselors and other caregivers, aims to provide access to the latest treatments as well as emotional and spiritual support to help patients and their families during the recovery process.

The Burn Center team cares for over 400 people a year and has about a 92.5 percent survival rate. Additionally, the Burn Center has gone more than four years without a central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI). A reputable accomplishment. CLABSIs can result in thousands of deaths each year as well as add significant costs to the healthcare system.

The air medical transportation service, AirMed, is based out of the UofU Health’s Level 1 Trauma Center and is one of only three trauma level units in the state. AirMed has six helicopters and two airplanes located throughout Utah and Wyoming that are ready 24/7 to assist trauma, burns, pediatric, high-risk obstetrics and more.

Extensive training and experience are required even to be considered to join the top-notch AirMed team. Flight nurses have at least five years of experience in a Level 1 Facility. Flight medics have a minimum five years of experience. Flight respiratory therapists have a minimum of two years of experience in an ICU and ER at the UofU Health.  Additionally, AirMed is one of the only perinatal teams in the country staffed around the clock with a high-risk OB nurse, a neonatal nurse, and a perinatal respiratory therapist. The average crew member has 17 years of experience.

The goal of the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy is to expand the knowledge about developmental biology. It is also a valuable teaching tool for medical and dental students during the preclinical years. The department continues to grow. In the last three years, seven additional faculty members have joined the team.

The Entertainment Arts and Engineering program brings game developers and medical researchers together to develop innovative therapeutic apps and medical games. Projects include assisting in physical therapy for amputee patients, creating the ability for individuals to personalize control of a wheelchair and patient empowerment games.

The Utah State Legislature matched a private donation and appropriated $50 million for the Medical Education & Discovery Building. The project is projected to cost about $185 million. It will serve as an education and training hub for the UofU Health. Faculty, students and industry partners. They will be able to come together to create, test and implement solutions to challenging health problems.

UofU Health has more than 20,000 faculty and staff, is Utah’s only academic health system and it generates $77 million of state tax revenue.

Utah continues to rank as one of the top places for healthcare at the most affordable rate in the nation. This is due in large part to the dedicated doctors, nurses, scientists and staff.

November 2017 Legislative Calendar

Stay in the know about what is happening at the Utah House of Representatives.  Here is a list of November’s meetings. Click the committee to see the agenda, meeting materials and listen to live and past audio* of meetings.

Wednesday, November 1
10:00 a.m. Education Interim Committee

Thursday, November 2
3:00 p.m.  Property Tax Working Group of the Utah Tax Review Commission

Tuesday, November 7
10: 00 a.m. Native American Legislative Liaison Committee

Wednesday, November 8
9:00 a.m. Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee

Thursday, November 9
10:00 a.m. Judicial Rules Review Committee
2
:00 p.m. Utah Tax Review Commission

Monday, November 13
9:00 a.m. Administrative Rules Review Committee
3:30 p.m. State Fair Park Committee

Tuesday, November 14
9:00 a.m. Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands
9:30 a.m. Retirement and Independent Entities Interim Committee
2:00 p.m. Executive Appropriations Committee
3:00 p.m. Legislative Water Development Commission
4:00 p.m. Legislative Audit Subcommittee 

Wednesday, November 15
8:00 a.m. Health and Human Services Interim Committee
8:30 a.m. Business and Labor Interim Committee
8:30 a.m. Education Interim Committee
8:30 a.m. Government Operations Interim Committee
8:30 a.m. Political Subdivisions Interim Committee
8:30 a.m. Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology Interim Committee
1:15 p.m. Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee
1:15 p.m. Judiciary Interim Committee
1:15 p.m. Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee
1:15 p.m. Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee
1:15 p.m. Transportation Interim Committee
1:15 p.m. Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Interim Committee
5:00 p.m. Commission on Federalism

Thursday, November 16
8:00 a.m. Legislative Policy Summit

 Monday, November  27
8:00 a.m. Transportation Governance and Funding Task Force
9:00 a.m. Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee
1:00 p.m. Health Reform Task Force

 Tuesday, November  28
2:00 p.m. Point of the Mountain Development Commission

*Not all meetings are streamed online.

 

Opioid Epidemic

 In the words of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States is experiencing an opioid-induced “public health epidemic.”

In 2014, Utah ranked 4th in the nation for drug overdose deaths – an average of 6 people a week die in Utah  as a result of overdosing on prescription opioids. Last week, Speaker Greg Hughes made it clear that he would like the State of Utah to attack the opioid epidemic by litigating directly against those involved with these often harmful products. Within the last year, more than 25 states, counties and cities have filed civil suits against manufacturers, distributors and large drugstore chains. The Speaker believes that Utah can better tell its own story without joining a multi-state effort. We have unique issues and damages and will have a more impactful outcome by addressing this on our own.

For example, in 2013, the State of Utah settled a lawsuit with a large manufacturer for $8.5 million based on allegations that the drug manufacturer defrauded the state’s Medicaid program through allegedly false and misleading marketing. A multi-state collective settled the claims of 37 states and the District of Columbia for a total of $90 million. The average settlement in that effort resulted in $2.37 million per state. By going at it on our own, Utah received of three and a half times the amount of an individual state in the collective.

In 2009, the State of Utah settled a lawsuit with another large manufacturer for $24 million based on allegations that the drug manufacturer concealed its knowledge of significant side effects associated with a particular drug. A multi-state collective settled the claims of 32 states and the District of Columbia for a total of $62 million. The average settlement in that effort resulted in $1.88 million per state. By going at it on our own, Utah received nearly 13 times the amount of an individual state in the collective.

Speaker Hughes and members of the Utah Legislature will continue working on solutions address tragic epidemic.

In the News:

Doug Wright Show – Speaker Hughes wants UT to file lawsuit against Big Pharma

KSL News – Top name on Capitol Hill wants to take legal action against Utah opioid epidemic

Salt Lake Tribune: Get those dirty needles off the street

Deseret News: Trump’s announcement decrying opioid ‘public health emergency’ welcomed in Utah

Fox 13 News: Utah best state for federal opioid money, House Speaker Hughes says

Good 4 Utah: As state tackles opioid crisis, some call for legal action

Deseret News: The untold story of how Utah doctors and Big Pharma helped drive the national opioid epidemic