Thursday, January 31, 2013

Utah health insurance exchange at a glance

As one of just two states with an existing health insurance exchange, Utah is in a unique position in regard to the nationwide implementation of the federal government’s health care overhaul.

Whereas most states are creating or gearing up to roll out exchanges, Utah’s program has been up and running since 2009 to allow small businesses to select health care plans in an online marketplace that lists several options and prices, similar to websites that sell airline tickets.

State officials are still deciding if they’ll expand the exchange to individuals, as required by the federal plan.

The state took $1 million from a federal planning grant in 2010, but the exchange now operates on a state budget of $600,000 a year, Connor said. The state charges an administration fee of $8 per employee, per month, to help take care of costs.

The plan has an automated 1-800 number and 800 licensed brokers who help people choose the health insurance plans that fit them best. There are rules to prevent brokers from steering people toward certain companies.

Utah charges a broker fee of $37 per employee, per month, for the service. That’s comparable to what insurance companies charge within costs on traditional plans, officials said.

Utah’s exchange employs just five people. It may add a few employees as the exchange grows, but not many. The small size is by design to keep administrative costs down.

“Our goal,” Connor said, “is to facilitate, rather than to administer, the exchange.” Standard Examiner

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