Avenue H

Avenue H

More small Utah businesses are turning to the state-based health insurance marketplace known as Avenue H to offer healthcare benefits to employees.

Open enrollment for the new health exchange marketplace starts October 1st, and Utahns will have a variety of options for health insurance. Among the choices is a new insurance provider called Arches Health Plan.  Arches is a non-profit cooperative governed by its members.  Joining KUER in studio is the CEO Linn Baker, who has a long history with healthcare in Utah.  He was founder and executive of the state’s Public Employee's Health Program for more than three decades.

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Some information was released Thursday about how the Affordable Care Act will impact Utah consumers. Utahns shopping for health insurance on the new federal online marketplace will have 99 plan choices. The state insurance department provided an estimate for what these options will cost Utah consumers. They also compared prices to the state’s exchange for small businesses known as Avenue H.  

One of Utah’s largest health insurance companies, Regence BlueCross BlueShield, will no longer be selling its plans on Avenue H, the state’s exchange for small businesses.

Utah has come to an agreement with the US Department of Health and Human Services on how it will run its exchange – or health insurance marketplace. HHS has approved Utah’s first-of-its-kind proposal to split state and federal responsibilities. Under the agreement, Utah will continue running the state exchange known as Avenue H for small businesses. The federal government will run a separate exchange for individual consumers. 

Federal officials have given preliminary approval for Utah to run its own health insurance exchange marketplace, but some state lawmakers say they don’t want to run the exchange under the feds’ rules. 

Earlier this week, US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told Utah officials that the state’s Avenue H exchange could be approved by the federal government if it meets certain requirements by October.  Republican Representative Jim Dunnigan is chair of Utah’s Health System Reform Task Force.  He says the feds are not giving Utah the flexibility that it requested.

The federal government has conditionally approved Utah’s health insurance exchange known as Avenue H.  But the feds say more work needs to be done for the state-based exchange to be compliant with the Affordable Care Act. 

US Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius praised Utah for making "significant progress" with its online insurance marketplace.  She says she’s confident Avenue H will be federally compliant by the deadline of October this year.  In a conference call, federal health administrator Gary Cohen essentially put the ball in Utah’s court.

The state’s Health System Reform Task Force had its final meeting Monday before the legislative session, but questions remain about health reform  - in particular, who will run Utah’s health insurance exchange.

Governor Gary Herbert sent a letter to President Barack Obama Tuesday morning asking the federal government to let Utah keep Avenue H, the state’s health insurance exchange, without making changes to it. 

Utah’s Health Exchange has a new name, along with a new website.  State leaders say they want to distance themselves from the Affordable Care Act.  Starting Thursday, the program which connects small businesses with health insurance carriers will be called Avenue H.