Healthcare accessibility and costs are still the #1 priority for Utahns, as studies have found since 2016. Currently, many people are worried about losing jobs and know this also means losing their healthcare insurance. Ninety percent of Utah employees work for small businesses, defined as less than 500 employees. For many small business employees, health insurance costs are prohibitive. In 2018, Medicaid Expansion (Prop. 3) was supported by 65% of voters in our district. The legislature weakened the proposition, making it more expensive and narrowing it to cover less people. Utahns recognize that we need to be healthy in order to work, and I will work for equitable, accessible, affordable healthcare for all Utahns.
In 2018 our state legislature commissioned a study of health disparities by legislative district. The report came out last year with important findings. Within our district (HD46), we have wide healthcare disparities. A “disparity” implies that the difference is avoidable, unfair, and unjust. We range from areas where less than 3% of people have no healthcare insurance to areas where 20% have no healthcare insurance. In one area, 10% of adults are reporting poor mental health, and in another area 25% report poor mental health. Drug poisoning death rates per 100,000 people range from 18 to 38 in different areas within our district. I care about all citizens of our district and will actively work with the health department to find solutions to address these disparities.
Utah has some of the highest national rates of suicide and other mental health challenges, with up to a third of adults in some areas dealing with depression. Recent legislation has created mental health crisis receiving centers and mobile crisis outreach teams. These are tremendous improvements. I will work to ensure these programs receive adequate funding and that we continue to find innovative ways to address our mental health needs.
In April when we focused on wearing masks and social distancing, our transmission rates of COVID-19 were lower than they are today. Following guidance from health experts could have led to sustained lower transmission rates and prepared us better for opening schools this fall. Free contact tracing apps have been offered to our state and haven’t been accepted. I listen to subject experts and will always work for transparency, open bids, and the best options possible.
Our legislature has passed bills improving our ability to see how much procedures cost, but are citizens aware of this and able to find the information they need? How can we improve our ability to see costs before an expensive procedure and shop for the best fit? Part of the answer is being proactive as patients. Several hospitals now offer costs estimates for non-urgent procedures. As I speak with residents of our district, I hear transparency of health costs is a concern, and I will continue looking for improvements.