June 1, 2012

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Article

Kill or Cure

Inside the Utah Health Exchange

Amy K. Stewart

June 1, 2012

Choice and Accountability
In the Exchange, the employers themselves are not the ones making decisions about healthcare; it is really the employee who is in the driver’s seat.

Jim Murray, director of government programs for SelectHealth, says the Exchange empowers employees. “Some employees want richer benefits while others want to save more money with a higher deductible health plan,” Murray says. “There is more employee choice, more employee responsibility.”

Once an employer decides its group is going to go on the Exchange, the employer just needs to decide what amount of money it is going to contribute (a defined contribution amount). This is similar to a 401K plan, where the employer contributes and the employee adds the additional amount.

“It shifts the responsibility from the employer to the employee,” Conner says. “The employee has the responsibility and accountability for their own healthcare plan and picking a plan that meets their budget.”

Small businesses are finding that the Exchange can help them put a lid on ever-increasing health benefit costs. Dave Johnson signed his three companies up for the Exchange in 2011 when their insurance provider was going to increase premiums by 30 percent.

Johnson says the variety of options on the Exchange were a big draw. “That’s a huge advantage,” he says. “Some employees want our High Deductible Health Savings Plan…while others want a basic healthcare plan.”

For more information about the Utah Health Exchange, visit www.exchange.utah.gov. 

What’s in a Name?

The Utah Health Exchange wants to change its name and is conducting market research to find a name that will be more appealing to consumers.

Utah’s “Exchange” was developed before the federal “exchange” concept was created in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. “The issue is a lot of people who are against Obamacare and the healthcare reform laws will see our Exchange as being a conduit under that federal exchange, which it is not. We are a different type of approach,” says Patty Conner, director of the Utah Health Exchange. “Really what we want the Exchange to represent is a market-based solution. It’s not a federal government-type program, although we are in compliance with federal guidelines.”

She adds that Utah’s Exchange is a collaboration between the insurance carriers. “We are just facilitating the process and providing the technology. This is about choice and value and being able to put the ownership into the employer’s hands.”

 

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