Many people in Utah County are concerned about the cost and quality of their health care. As the Affordable Care Act slowly comes into effect, individuals, families, and businesses across the county are seeing firsthand how the law that was supposed to reform our health system has only multiplied problems that had been building for years.

I recently received an email from Alex, a full-time graduate student in Provo, who is, as he put it, “beyond frustrated” that the costs of health insurance keep rising while the number of options available keeps shrinking.

Like so many others in Utah County, the Affordable Care Act has left Alex stuck with no good choices.

He was forced to cancel his old plan when the rates quadrupled last year, but he was denied access to Medicaid and deemed ineligible for a tax subsidy because he is unmarried, without kids, and studying full-time with no source of income.

Now, the cheapest plan available to him costs $180 a month and comes with a whopping $6000 deductible – which is anything but “affordable” on a graduate student’s budget.

Alex deserves better from his government. The people of Utah deserve better. And that’s why I’m committed to achieving real reform to our dysfunctional health system.

Today, the chances of such reform are better than ever.

The new, unified Congress recently sworn into office has a unique opportunity to advance legislation that empowers patients and families – not distant, coercive bureaucracies -- to decide how they want to spend their health care dollars.

There are several thoughtful, conservative leaders in Congress who have developed reform plans that would expand choices, improve quality, and lower costs, thereby making health insurance and health care more accessible and more affordable.

And here in Utah, state legislators recognize the need to advance fair and sustainable reforms. Representative Dean Sanpei, who represents the Provo area, spoke for many when he said, "The Medicaid program nationally has unsustainable cost trajectories and is in critical need of real reforms, not just expansion."

But getting these legislative ideas passed and signed into law ultimately depends on the continued engagement of people like Alex and countless other Utahns who call and write their elected representatives every day. These are men and women who refuse to let their frustration and disappointment with the government turn into indifference toward the government.

Ours is still a government of, by, and for the people, and I’m glad that the honest, hardworking people of Utah never relent in making their voices heard.

Op-ed originally published in the Daily Herald