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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Utah Voters Speak

How a single poll changed the conversation about closing Utah’s coverage gap.

Can one poll shift a statewide conversation?
Well, this one did.
On June 17th, a group of civic organizations revealed the results of a statewide poll comparing different strategies to close Utah’s coverage gap.  The survey of 623 registered voters showed that Utahns of all demographic groups and political perspectives favor Governor Gary Herbert’s Healthy Utah Plan by wide margins.

When compared with the option of doing nothing, 88% of Utah voters preferred the Healthy Utah Plan, and 70% preferred Healthy Utah compared to a full Medicaid expansion. A few critics complained that respondents weren’t asked to compare Healthy Utah to a state-funded partial expansion plan like the one proposed during the 2014 legislative session. But because that plan received only 11% support in a similar April 2014 survey (even less than the "do nothing"  option), the survey designers declined to include it as a viable alternative.

Announced by Gov. Herbert in February, the Healthy Utah plan would extend the offer of private health insurance to Utahns caught in the coverage gap. These are adults who earn too little to buy subsidized insurance on, but earn too much to receive Medicaid. His plan would allocate federal funds targeted towards Medicaid expansion and return them to the state to assist in the purchase of private health insurance.

Why did this poll generate 11 media articles (see below), elicit a negative review on a blogger website, and shake up the status quo?
Because this poll showed that a substantial majority of Utah voters (including 84% of self-described “very conservatives”) want our state’s political leaders to fix the coverage gap. It demonstrated that a majority of Utahns support elements within Healthy Utah that promote state flexibility, require co-pays, and leverage private insurance. And it proved that voters in Utah are willing to use federal funds to subsidize the cost of private insurance for their neighbors who can’t afford it. But most importantly, it squashed the echo-chamber hearsay and anecdotes that some politicians are using to justify their inaction on closing Utah’s coverage gap.

The poll of 623 Utah voters was conducted via phone interviews and online surveys by Dan Jones & Associates in May and June of 2014. Analysis of the poll was completed by private researchers at Provo-based Notalys, LLC.

Here are key highlights from the poll:

·      88% of voters prefer Healthy Utah over the status quo of doing nothing
·      83% believe “all legal Utah residents should have access to affordable health insurance
·      71% of the respondents agreed that the state should accept federal assistance in health care
·      70% of voters prefer Healthy Utah over
·      Medicaid expansion. 54% of voters indicate they would be more likely to vote for legislators who support the Healthy Utah Plan.

Download the poll here:
Initial Findings Report (pdf)
PowerPoint Presentation (pdf)

Poll Sponsors:
American Cancer Society
Cancer Action Network
Association for Utah Community
Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce
University of Utah Hospitals
United Way of Salt Lake
Utah Health Policy Project
Utah Hospital Association
Voices for Utah Children

Media Coverage of the Healthy Utah Poll (June 2014)

(Deseret News, 6/27/14)

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