Utah Leaders Discuss Affordability at UHPP’s Annual Conference

High Value Care
2 min read
Nolan Jekich
January 16th, 2024

Regence Health Policy Center sponsored The Utah Health Policy Project’s (UHPP) annual conference earlier this month, bringing together lawmakers and health care leaders to tackle pressing issues in behavioral health access and health care affordability. The panel discussion, centered on health care affordability and The One Utah Collaborative’s efforts to address rising costs, featured panelists across the industry:  

  • Jennifer Strohecker PharmD, Director of the Division of Integrated Healthcare and State Medicaid Director  

  • Alicia Camaliche, Policy Analyst, Families USA  

  • Chet Loftis, Managing Director of PEHP  

  • John Poleman, Director of Innovation at the One Utah Health Collaborative  

  • Matt Gephardt (Moderator), Investigative Journalist on KSL-TV  

As the discussion began, John Poleman, Director of Innovation at the One Utah Health Collaborative, underscored the uniqueness of The Collaborative’s Health Care Spending Taskforce- elaborating how Utah’s approach differs from other states where the government sets cost growth targets.   

Utah’s Taskforce focuses on the collaboration and commitment between public and private partners to reduce spending and improve affordability within the state. Poleman cited a 2023 study indicating Utah having the 15th highest health care spending growth per capita in the nation and 86% of Utahns worrying about affording health care in the future.   

Poleman went on to highlight the Collaborative’s ongoing efforts, having already met five times since its inception, to answer the question: “how much should health care spending grow for Utah families and businesses each year?”  

As the discussion progressed, Alicia Camaliche, Policy Analyst for Families USA, brought to light the critical issue of provider pricing discrepancies. “Hospitals charge an awful lot,” Camaliche emphasized by noting the significant cost variations for identical services in different care settings. Furthermore, she underscored the urgency to tackle challenges posed by dominant, integrated systems that oftentimes lead to increase in costs without corresponding improvements in quality.  

Whether through establishing cost growth targets or introducing legislation to promote further competition, the focus of affordability remains a top priority for policymakers. As Camaliche noted, “patients and their families reap the consequences of high health care costs. The onus should not fall on patients to fix the affordability crisis.”  

Nolan Jekich is the Program Advisor, Policy & Stakeholder Engagement for Regence and the Regence Health Policy Center (RHPC). Jekich has been with Regence since 2020, leading health policy initiatives relating to provider and prescription drug affordability. Jekich supports Government Relations in Idaho, Utah and manages the RHPC’s external communication campaigns and strategies.