As Healthcare Debate Rages On, Utah's Counties Struggle To Deal With Costs

Mar 14, 2017

Box Elder County Commissioner Stan Summers and his family receive health insurance through the county government. However, according to Summers, that has not kept him from feeling the impact of the rising cost of healthcare, either personally or as a county official.

In addition to working several jobs to handle his own growing out-of-pocket payments, Summers said that Box Elder County is running out of options when it comes to covering local government employees.

“The first year the [Affordable Care Act] went into effect, it cost us, I think, 22 percent at the county. There’s some counties this year that are going to go up anywhere between 30 and 40 percent,” Summers said. “That’s pretty tough when you’re a government entity and it’s not like you can increase profits because you’re basically just taxing people that are already taxed to death as it is. We’ve had to cut benefits, we’ve had to try to move people into high-deductible plans, we’ve tried to do everything to be able to keep it affordable for our employees.”

On Monday, Summers was one of 10 people who met with President Donald Trump to express concern about the Affordable Care Act and the current plan in Congress to repeal the law and replace it with a different plan. While initially telling Republican colleagues that they should just let the ACA fail and then replace it, Summers said, President Trump changed his mind after meeting with the group.

“After listening to everybody speak, he actually looked at me and said, ‘And you guys are the reasons that we’re not going to let it fail,’” Summers explained. “‘I’ll let the press and everybody think that it was great and wonderful and everything else, but we can’t afford to let the American people slip through the cracks and not have anything to fall back on because you are the people that are going to get hurt.’ He understands and he was very genuine, very down to earth. Him and Vice-President [Mike] Pence were amazing, attentive, they hung on every word. I was just really impressed.”

Summers added that he is in favor of the GOP replacement since it would put healthcare in the hands of the states instead of the federal government.