October 1, 2011

Cover Story

Healthcare Heroes

With unwavering courage and compassion, the 2011 Healthcare Heroes are imp...Read More

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A Closer Look at the Utah Health Exchange


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Around Utah

Living Well
Battle of the Bulge

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In Up to Your Neck

International Reach

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Stroke of Genius

Industry Outlook
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Sean Whalen

Do Payday Lenders Offer a Way Out or Just Enough Rope to Hang Yourself?

Kris Rudarmel


A Closer Look at the Utah Health Exchange

Sarah Ryther Francom

October 1, 2011

Uncertainty is the word of choice for many right now. From the Wall Street chaos to the debt-ceiling debates, there are many uncertainties looming around us. Ranking high on likely everyone’s list of problems to solve is healthcare. With rising costs on all ends, questions about Obama’s healthcare reform, and benefits—like Medicaid—being examined, there is much to question about the future of healthcare in the United States.

Yet despite the unanswered questions and unresolved issues, there is much to be proud of and grateful for. In this issue of Utah Business, we honor a selection of healthcare professionals who have remained committed to bettering the health and lives of Utahns and individuals across the world. Regardless of the ups and downs the industry is experiencing, these Healthcare Heroes value our health more than the balance sheet. They remain devoted to the art of healing and hope. Read their stories beginning on page 58.

Though there are undoubtedly many issues to be resolved in the nation’s healthcare industry, the state of Utah hasn’t been standing by waiting for problems to be solved. The state’s innovative Utah Health Exchange portal is an example of how the Beehive State is leading the way in this uncertain industry—and many throughout the United States are watching.

The Utah Health Exchange allows participating employers to offer health insurance options to their employees through a defined-contribution marketplace—and it has promised to be a win-win. Here’s how it works: Participating employers designate a specific dollar amount for their employees to purchase health insurance from participating health insurance companies—all through the exchange portal. Employers no longer have the burden of selecting plans for their employees, as the exchange offers numerous plans from companies like Regence BlueCross BlueShield and SelectHealth. The exchange allows employees to have more freedom to select a plan that fits their individual needs.

Though the Utah Health Exchange is an innovative model that many believe will be part of the solution to our nation’s healthcare problems, some across the United States are beginning to question its effectiveness, as companies are not lining up to participate. Officially launched in the fall of 2010 (after a nearly year-long trial period), the exchange’s first year in operation is about to come to a close. Here’s a look at what it’s accomplished thus far: The exchange currently has more than 165 small employer groups participating, covering nearly 4,000 individuals—20 percent of those employers previously offered no health insurance coverage to its employees. Though the exchange is currently targeting small employers (2–50 employees), it is in the middle of testing the viability of large employer participation.

The Utah Health Exchange has not experienced raging success in its first year, nor has it experienced failure. Instead, the exchange is moving thoughtfully forward. Though it is too early to tell whether it will be a viable model for states around the nation, it is worth watching. And it’s another example of how Utah is innovatively working to solve problems in an ailing industry.

From the Editor
Sarah Ryther Francom

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