WOODS CROSS — Obamacare will go into effect and with it, requirements that Utah taxpayers help fund Medicare and help shoulder the cost of insuring people with pre-existing health conditions, Woods Cross Republican Sen. Todd Weiler says.
Because of that, all motorcycle riders in Utah should be required to wear helmets, not just riders younger than 18, he said.
Weiler, still in his rookie year after replacing Sen. Dan Liljenquist, has sponsored a bill for the 2013 legislative session to that effect.
Not requiring helmets would be a de facto expansion of Medicaid, Weiler believes. If a person dies or receives traumatic brain injury while riding a motorcycle, taxpayers could end up paying for it even if that person started out with private insurance, he said.
If that person is a breadwinner, taxpayers could end up supporting the fallen rider’s dependents as well.
“Libertarians would say, ‘Live free and die but it’s none of your business,’” Weiler said. “I wish that we lived in that country, but we don’t.”
ABATE of Utah (American Bikers Aiming Towards Education) CEO Steve Thompson said Weiler is running an anti-civil liberties bill and not being honest, because more traumatic head injuries happen in cars than on motorcycles.
“He’s being very deceptive that he wants to save money and we want to get into his pocket,” Thompson said.
ABATE has taken the position that education is a better way to protect riders than legislation. Mandating helmets could also make a big dent in tourism revenues, because motorcycle riders would simply ride around Utah rather than go through it and risk being caught, Thompson said.
“We’re saying that we don’t want to make crashes safer, we want to reduce crashes,” Thompson said. “We are not anti-helmet, we are pro-freedom of choice. The vast majority of Utah riders wear helmets.”
In 2009, a House Democrat proposed a similar bill, but it never got out of committee.
Being a Republican and facing the new federal mandates, Weiler thinks his chances of success are better, but he has doubts.
“The odds are probably stacked against me because of the libertarian live-free-or die mentality,” he said, “but it’s a discussion we need to be having at this time.”