The federal government has given Utah the initial go-ahead to move forward with its existing state-run health insurance exchange. Utah was one of four states led by Republican governors to get approvals Thursday morning from Heath and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Exchanges are online health insurance marketplaces pioneered in Utah and Massachusetts. Utah's exchange was launched on a limited basis in 2009 and fully implemented two years later. There are currently only about 7,000 small business employees participating in the health coverage the plan provides. Utah Health Policy Project's Jason Stevenson said there's still work to do to help residents in rural Utah.
"The state has shown some reluctance to really involve community organizations and advocates in the stakeholder process of developing the exchange. What we need to do is really lean on the people who know these communities well because otherwise we feel they're going to miss out; that they're not going to find or take advantage of these benefits being offered.
More transparency is needed from government officials, Stevenson said, who are responsible for making recommendations and taking public comment on Utah's plan to expand it's plan to provide an individual health insurance market by 2014 to meet federal requirements.
"We're going to be asking, perhaps even pushing the state to move forward with better governance, more transparent governance because we ultimately believe that we'll have a better product. It seems like common sense to us. The more people directly affected by the health care or involved in the process of putting it together and making it work, the better product we'll have in the end."
Enrollment in the Utah Health Insurance Exchange program opens in October. For more on the exchange, visit the Market's website.