Herbert considered changing workers' health plans

Published: Wednesday, May 1 2013 9:35 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert considered but abandoned a plan to shift government workers from a state-sponsored health plan and into Utah's existing health insurance marketplace for small businesses, a spokeswoman said last week.

The proposal didn't get far.

"It was simply thinking out loud and identifying as a concept to be further explored," said Herbert's spokeswoman Ally Isom.

The idea, however, was similar to one that lawmakers in Washington state are considering to reduce that state's health care costs. Officials there are weighing whether to move some part-time government workers from a state-sponsored health plan to the insurance exchange developed under President Barack Obama's health care law.

Isom said there was no further study of the issue after Herbert floated it during a February address to the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. She said it's not a path state officials want to pursue for the state's employees and their dependents.

"At this point, it's not an option that's on the table for the state of Utah," she said.

States around the country have been deciding whether to run their own insurance exchanges, but for Utah that decision has been unique.

Utah has an existing health insurance marketplace for small businesses, which Herbert wants the state to continue running.

The governor has asked the federal government to set up and run a marketplace for individuals.

The existing marketplace for small businesses, known as Avenue H, has been in place since 2009. The state had previously considered expanding it to individuals, but changed course earlier this year.

During his Feb. 6 speech, Herbert said Utah is looking to expand the Avenue H exchange to "to provide opportunities for all of our state employees to be a part of the health care exchange."

That comment is as far as the issue went, Isom said.

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