Utah Health Exchange growing as more small businesses sign on

By Lois M. Collins, Deseret News

Published: Monday, May 30, 2011 11:06 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — More than 100 small-business employers now use the Utah Health Exchange to allow their employees to access health insurance benefits, and state experts say they're hoping to have 10 times that many companies using it by the end of the year.

It's attracting a lot of attention by states that are trying to figure out how to create their own health exchanges, something required by the Affordable Care Act. Both Utah and Massachusetts tackled the task early. Massachusetts, which was first, has a more regulatory approach than Utah's. The Beehive State, says Norm Thurston, health reform implementation coordinator in the Utah Department of Health, looked closely at and learned some things from that exchange, but opted for a more free-market approach.

The exchange now has 114 small-business employers enrolled, providing coverage to 1,035 employees and their dependents, a total of 2,985 people covered, according to Patty Conner, director of the Utah Office of Consumer Health Services, which manages the exchange within the Governor's Office of Economic Development.

The health insurance itself is provided by four of the five largest health insurance companies that do business in the state — Humana, Regence, SelectHeath and UnitedHealthcare