It’s a Wrap! Highlights (and “lowlights”) from the 2024 Legislative Session

By Maryann Martindale, CEO, Utah Academy of Family Physicians

Sine Die! At midnight on Friday, March 1st, the 2024 Legislative session came to a close. From opening chimes to closing gavel, it was a wild ride this year with more downs than ups. Our spring magazine will include a detailed article covering all of our work, but for now, here is a short recap.

Maryann Martindale interviews Representative Jen Daily-Provost at our Primary Care and Public Health Day on the Hill

Despite some really great programs, the legislature determined that a tax cut and support for sports teams was the order of the day and many really deserving programs were left without support or funding. A particularly concerning unfunded areas was graduate medical education (resident funding). Although it doesn’t impact family medicine residencies, it is a cut that will have to be made up by the University of Utah, Intermountain Health, and others. Any cut to residency funding impacts us all considering the dire situation we are in—especially in rural areas—with regard to healthcare accessibility.

As you are likely aware, the first couple weeks of the session also saw some controversial bills passed including a “bathroom” bill that made it illegal for transgender people to use a bathroom other than the gender assigned to them at birth, and the elimination of any DEI programs in public schools, universities, and government offices. Both concerning for their far-reaching impacts and likely unintended (or perhaps intended) consequences to the health and well-being of all Utahns. These are serious issues that need to be debated and policies made from a place of empathy and understand rather than misinformation and scare tactics.

Our biggest battle this year was against HB463, a bill that had the potential to eliminate all “optional” Medicaid coverage. Despite the majority support for Medicaid expansion across the state, there are those in the legislature who are still determined to eliminate funding. In this instance, it would have created triggers based on questionable parameters, that would eliminate funding of programs that provide coverage for disability, behavioral health, pre- and post-partum, well care visits, prescriptions, and many more. All healthcare and low-income advocacy groups worked together to lobby and correct misinformation, right up until the last day of the session. Fortunately, we succeeded in killing the bill but we have no doubt it will be back in some form or another.

It is a great relief to see this session end and if I was giving it a grade, I’d give it a solid D+. And a huge thank you to those who participated in our Legislative Advocacy Committee, for sharing their time and expertise.