SALT LAKE CITY—Today, the Utah Senate passed Senate Bill 96 that reverses the will of Utah voters and will undermine effective cancer prevention and treatment in the state. Utah voters passed Proposition 3 last November to increase access to Medicaid for 150,000 low-income residents earning less than $16,700 a year (138 percent of the federal poverty level). SB96 would delay the start date of Medicaid expansion and it would add administrative barriers that would restrict access to the program. The November ballot measure, approved by 53 percent of voters, contained no such restrictions.
"Utahns have spoken and the clear majority voted to ensure that families in our communities have access to affordable health care," said Brook Carlisle, director of government relations, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Utah. "We did not vote to restrict access to primary and preventive care and life-saving cancer treatment services for low-income Utahns. We did not vote to undermine their opportunity to gain access to comprehensive and affordable health care coverage that will allow them to get healthy, stay healthy and provide for their families."
SB96 contains many provisions that could restrict access to care. The bill would limit the number of people who could enroll in the program and condition Medicaid eligibility on compliance with a work or community engagement requirement – a policy that could seriously disadvantage cancer patients, survivors and those who will be diagnosed with the disease because they are physically unable to comply with these new requirements.
"There are 11,000 Utahns who will be diagnosed with cancer this year. Having access to health care coverage is the number one factor in whether or not they will survive," Carlisle added. "SB96 would delay 150,000 residents access to comprehensive coverage. For low-income residents with no other access to health care coverage, Medicaid could mean the difference between life or death with a cancer diagnosis."
The Senate bill passed after hundreds of advocates gathered at the Capitol on Monday to ask lawmakers to respect the will of the voters. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives.
"This bill will take us backward in the fight against cancer in Utah. We’re urging the House to do the right thing and reject this bill that will hurt Utah families," Carlisle added.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state and local levels. ACS CAN empowers advocates across the country to make their voices heard and influence evidence-based public policy change as well as legislative and regulatory solutions that will reduce the cancer burden. As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is critical to the fight for a world without cancer. For more information, visit www.fightcancer.org
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