Stepping up as conservatives to help Utahns in need


While I was waiting for a flight out of Salt Lake City, a young man, waiting for the same flight, sat down next to me and initiated a conversation. I soon found out that “Theo” was headed to meet his mom, whom he hadn’t seen in a while. I also learned he has Asperger’s syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. I asked him how his disability was manifest and he said he struggled socially – which I thought was interesting because he had initiated our conversation. He said he used to have a hard time looking people in the eyes when he talked with them. He stammered a bit, almost nervous, but we had a delightful conversation. When we arrived at our destination he introduced me to his mom.

“Theo” lives in Birmingham, Ala., but his divorced parents both live in New Orleans. I asked why he lived away from his folks, and he replied, “Because that’s where I could get treatment for Asperger’s …New Orleans has nothing.” What “Theo” meant was that New Orleans didn’t have any public assistance programs to help him, whereas Birmingham did.

I could have ignored this young man. I could have judged him for seeking public assistance. Instead I was reminded of a very important lesson in the service of people in need: Conservatives can take away government programs that unintentionally create dependency, but no one can take away the human struggle through mortality. Cut Medicaid, cut Medicare, cut S-CHIP, cut every government health care program, and sick or disabled people who cannot afford medical care will still exist.

As Utah rightly looks for ways to move away from Medicaid business-as-usual, we’ll be wise to still take care of our neighbors in need. Our state Legislature seemed to be attentive to this point as it made authentic charity care a part of state health care policy last year with HJR 27. If Utah is serious about Medicaid reform, now is the time to prepare for the future. Now is the time for the state Legislature to seriously begin to create a statewide network of free clinics run by and through the private sector. (For more details, see Sutherland’s policy paper on authentic charity care.)

Similarly, we can end all of the talk about “hunger in Utah” by simply establishing a culture of regular giving of food to Utah’s food banks and pantries. Twice a year the state encourages citizens to give to food banks and pantries. But just twice a year? Is anyone really asserting that Utahns couldn’t participate in a statewide food drive each month? We can and we should, and the private sector in Utah could do this very easily.

The alternative is a continued political nightmare in which the “have-nots” and their liberal advocacy groups continue to politicize our neighbors in need. Why not kill two birds with one stone? Why not help our neighbors in need and put an end to the politics of poverty by simply asking all Utahns to step up and take care of one another without government involvement?

This entry was posted in Charity Care, Health Care, Poverty and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Laura Warburton

    Thank you for this article.  

    Two points.  

    1.  I’m very familiar with the struggle Theo is going through.  I can say without hesitation, he was able to speak with you because he could tell you wouldn’t hurt him.  Even though I don’t know Theo, I can say with surety he was bullied in Jr. and Sr. High School.  Which brings me nicely to my next point.

    2.  The more we are willing to allow government to take care of our neighbors the more we rob ourselves of the gift of a charitable heart.  Arguing for higher taxes (although generally well meaning individuals do so) to tend to the poor is an inadequate substitute for the experience of personally being involved with the needy.  The more we can bring back community into our lives, the better off we will all be.   

    Again, thank you for this needed discussion.  In Utah, we seem to be living under a cloud of anger and that makes me sad.  All that can change if we just turn and ask, “What can I do for my neighbor to make their day a little better.”

  • yintercept

    Prior generations of Americans understood charitable care. Modern discourse, public schools and what-not have messed up our minds to such an extent that people no longer are even capable of understanding the western tradition of charity.

    IMHO To make the argument for charitable care, one needs to develop a more structured system for charitable care.

    • Anonymous

      Good point.  Here is an example of “a more structured system for charitable care” we have proposed for the health care arena:

      • yintercept

        I read the PDF on Charity Care. I wrote a blog post on the article.

        The problem I see with this proposal is that it attempts to define the exception before the rule.

        We should render charity care for those people who are underserved by the main stream health care system.  This system has become so convoluted and corrupt that we end up with top-heavy proposals like the CHF to overcome the corruption of mainstream care.

        Charity care does not need to be as top heavy or as political as the CHF.

        I think Sutherland is on the right track with its emphasis on charity care for the unfortunate; however, I believe that one should look at the rule before the exception.

        Currently, health care is dominated by employer based insurance. This has created a perverse market in which most health care is funded by a politically connected third party. When people are not employed, they are cut out of the system and left floundering.

        Your article said that this proposal fell on “deaf ears.”  In my opinion the reason for this is that the proposal is starting at the wrong end of the puzzle.  Since you are trying to solve the health care puzzle by starting with the exception, the CHF appears to be just another political entity grubbing for power.

        I believe that you could make the argument for charity care stronger if you started with a more complete model of health care.

        BTW, I contacted the Sutherland Institute to propose a meeting on a project called “The Medical Savings and Loan” which just happens to be a complete mathematical model for funding health care. The Sutherland Institute might be interested in this project.

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