BOUNTIFUL - If we’re going to pay for the Medicaid expansion anyway, why not get the benefits?
That’s the attitude of Ray Ward, a local physician set to run for the District 19 seat about to be vacated by Jim Neilson. Ward feels that, since Utah residents are already being federally taxed to fund the project, we should move now so we can get some advantage out of it.
“They raised those taxes in January 2013,” said Ward, speaking to the Bountiful Rotary. “We pay those whether or not Utah chooses to participate.”
Before saying yes, however, Ward believes the state should insist on some changes to how it applies the program. Specifically, he feels Utah should insist on a higher co-pay for emergency rooms, which would shift the burden of new patients back onto the primary care physicians who can better deal with it.
“Iowa and Arkansas have gotten some exemptions, and now is Utah’s chance to ask for some,” said Ward.
Though participating in the Medicaid expansion would cost the state between $35 and $40 million a year, Ward said most of the money can be found by re-allocating money from departments that would save money because of the expansion.
“If a prisoner has an in-patient stay, the state just eats that cost,” he said. “It would be work on the part of legislators to move that money around, but that’s a legislator’s job.”
Ward is also concerned about education funding, specifically the amount of money schools receive from Utah trust lands. Currently, schools only receive a portion of the dividend from investments made with trust lands money.
“It’s only a tiny trickle, while all the money from fees goes straight back into the fund,” said Ward. “To me, some of that should go to the schools.”
He said that increased funding might help an educational system that’s taken hits in recent years.
“In the last several years, our state scores have slipped down from 10th or 11th in the nation to the middle of the pack,” he said. “We need to watch out for that.”
And, if necessary, residents need to dip into their own pockets.
“The state has a cap on how much taxes a county can levy,” he said. “But are people willing to raise their taxes if they know it’s going straight to the schools?”