During House debate on HB391 which prohibits the governor or the Utah Department of Health from expanding Medicaid, Representative Mike Kennedy, (R-Alpine), a practicing family doctor, called on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) and other ecclesiastical organizations to take steps to increase charity care in Utah.
Under Kennedy’s vision, the LDS Church would call members who work in health care professions to specific charity care callings. This would replace their current callings thereby freeing up medical practitioners to provide even more charity care than they are currently providing.
Kennedy noted that he currently spends four hours a week on his current calling as a boy scout leader and while acknowledging the importance of the work, it does limit the time he has available to provide charity care to people without health insurance or the means to personally pay for medical care.
This was not the first time that Kennedy has broached this subject. He initially presented it during a Conservative Caucus meeting when the LDS Church’s lobbyists were present. Interest was expressed at the suggestion and it is likely to be pursued following the current legislative session which ends on March 14.
Kennedy also called on business and other organizations that support various charitable projects in foreign countries to redirect those resources to charity care in Utah. For example, a donation of $25,000 that would have been spent on an overseas project could provide supplies to a Utah charity care clinic for a month or two or time donated in providing direct medical services overseas could be redirected to meet the needs of Utahns.
Kennedy believes that Utah’s unique cultural heritage would allow the state to provide true charity care for the uninsured whereas in many other states it would not be possible.
Marie Poulson, (D-Salt Lake City) said that medical practitioners already provide large amounts of charity care and that it is not possible to increase charity care enough to meet the needs of the 130,000 people who are eligible for expanded Medicaid.
Kennedy argues that if preventative charity care were available and if people would follow the advice of their doctors, many of the high cost services provided by Medicaid would not be required in the first place or at least could be delivered in a much more cost effective way.