health insurance

Andrea Smardon / KUER

Governor Gary Herbert officially unveiled his plan Thursday to close the coverage gap and help low income Utahns get health insurance under the federal Affordable Care Act.

A regional director for US Department of Health and Human Services is in Utah to raise awareness about the second open enrollment period for health insurance.

Kim Gillan is the HHS Regional Director for six states in the Rocky Mountain region, but for the moment, her role in Utah is to be a health insurance cheerleader. Gillan says healthcare.gov is much more user friendly than it was in the first rollout and it’s operating smoothly.

Some people might think of November as the beginning of the holiday season, but for those involved in the health insurance field – it’s the beginning of another open enrollment season. Jason Stevenson of Utah Health Policy Project joins us to answer questions about health insurance this enrollment season, which begins Saturday, November 15th.

More information about open enrollment is available at Take Care Utah.

While the cost of healthcare continues to go up around the country, a new delivery and payment model in Utah is saving money for patients.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

For those in Utah who are addicted to drugs or mentally ill, jail may be one of the only places where treatment is free and accessible. In part one of a two-part series, KUER looks at how Salt Lake County cares for its incarcerated population.

Talking to people outside the Road Home shelter in Salt Lake City, you hear about job losses and the deaths of family members and friends, life events that can derail those who don’t have much of a support system, but you also hear another prevailing strain.

Another open enrollment period to sign up for health insurance is coming up in November, and rates are going to change. State assistance insurance commissioner Tanji (TAN-jee) Northrup says premium rates increase every year along with healthcare costs. She says preliminary estimates show that premium rates for individuals will go up by about 5.7 percent on average. That’s compared to an estimated national increase of 7 percent.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

A national poll shows Utah’s uninsured rate has not changed since the federal Affordable Care Act required all Americans to have health insurance.  This reflects trends across the country, where states that fully embraced the law's coverage expansion are experiencing a significant drop in the number of uninsured residents. But Utah and other states whose leaders still object to Obamacare are seeing much less change.

A federal court in Washington DC ruled Tuesday that Obamacare subsidies are illegal. Utah is among 36 states that would potentially be affected by this ruling, but for now, Utahns will continue to receive those subsidies.

"Entitled to Life" screenshot

A film debuting Tuesday in Salt Lake City highlights Utah’s low income citizens who don’t have access to affordable health insurance.  The new documentary tells the stories of Utah adults who fall within the state's coverage gap, earning too little to buy subsidized insurance on healthcare.gov, but too much to receive Medicaid.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

Utah’s Republican lawmakers say they’re not ready to make any decisions about Medicaid expansion or the governor’s alternative plan. That means over 110,000 low income Utahns will likely be waiting at least until next year before they know what their health insurance options may be.

At a GOP caucus this week, Republicans legislators determined that they don’t all agree when it comes to Medicaid and healthcare reform.

Brian Grimmett

Republican state lawmakers have come up with a proposal to provide health insurance for those who fall below the poverty line, but it does not expand Medicaid in the state. Democrats say rejecting those federal dollars is irresponsible.

Utahns who receive health insurance through the state’s Primary Care Network will likely have more time before they are cut from the program. PCN was set to expire at the end of this year, but state health officials say they have verbal confirmation from the federal government that the program will be funded for another year.

Andrea Smardon

Homeless Utahns will be able to get dental care at a clinic in downtown Salt Lake City thanks to a gift from a local business.  Alsco, a linen and uniform rental company has agreed to provide 125,000 dollars a year for five years to fund a full-time dentist at the Fourth Street Clinic. KUER’s Andrea Smardon reports that there is a pent up demand for dental services among the homeless and low-income populations.

Looking at the brand new dental chairs at Fourth Street Clinic, Russell Flowers breaks into a smile, revealing some missing teeth.

Signed & Numbered

Now that healthcare.gov is working better, more Utahns are going online to sign up for insurance. KUER’s Andrea Smardon reports that it’s affordable for some, expensive for others, and not available at all for more than 100,000 Utah citizens.

Andrea Smardon

A state legislative committee has decided not to consider a full Medicaid expansion as defined by the federal Affordable Care Act. Instead, the Health System Reform Task Force is considering three alternative options.

The federal health insurance exchange opened for business Tuesday, and state regulators have revealed the rates that Utahns have to choose from. In Salt Lake and Davis Counties, there is one insurer who has lower price plans than the rest. But insurance experts say consumers should look at more than just monthly premiums when making their choice.

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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Andrea Smardon

Small business owners convened at the Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake on Tuesday to learn about the Affordable Care Act and significant changes coming in health care. The Salt Lake Chamber along with insurance company SelectHealth released a survey revealing that the Affordable Care Act is perceived negatively by a majority of businesses, but that many of those businesses are also uninformed about the requirements of the law.

Ask small business owners how they will be affected by the Affordable Care Act… and you get answers like this…

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.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Thursday that about 140,000 Utahns will be receiving a rebate this year from their health insurance company. Utah residents will benefit from more than 4.5 million dollars in rebates from insurance companies this summer, averaging 85 dollars per family.

Many Utahns with preexisting medical conditions will see their health insurance shifted from state to federal oversight in July. After federal funding ran short for the “high-risk” insurance pool, state officials have refused to take on any additional costs. And federal health officials have refused to allow Select Health, the insurer that administers the program for Utah, to take responsibility. 

Utah lawmakers are considering a bill that would encourage citizens to buy private long-term care insurance. More than 35 states already have this type of public-private partnership.   

Utah insurance broker Craig Oberle told the state Health and Human Services committee that people don’t like to think about long term care, and how much it might cost.

“We all know the baby boom generation and what’s happening, it’s an absolute tsunami that’s coming,” Oberle said.

Utah is telling the federal government it’s not willing to take on more of the risk and the cost of insuring people with pre-existing health conditions. The US Department of Health and Human Services wants to cap federal spending on state-run high-risk pools because they are running out of funding. The Utah Governor’s office has until Friday to decide whether to absorb those costs in the state, or transition enrollees into a federal program – which they say will cost more out of pocket.

Andrea Smardon

A select group of healthcare providers, advocates, and community leaders met at the State Capitol Tuesday to discuss Medicaid, and the state’s pending decision on whether to expand the program to include more uninsured, low-income Utahns. Utah Department of Health Executive Director David Patton brought together about 20 people for the Medicaid workgroup.