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Utah's unique path on health insurance for small businesses

The numbers released yesterday for Utah residents signed up for health insurance on the federal exchange were predictably low. Only 357 state residents have so far managed to make it all the way through the problem-plagued healthcare.gov website.

Utah is one of 36 states making use of the federal marketplace for individual health care plans. However, we're the only state to have its own insurance marketplace for small businesses up and running while the federal government struggles to work out myriad problems with its nationwide venture.

For many entrepreneurs, deciding whether to, or how to, help provide health insurance for employees is an important part of planning done in conjunction with a business organization attorney.

Utah's small business health insurance market was set in place in 2009 and is called Avenue H.

Proponents of Avenue H say its straightforward approach is helping hundreds of businesses help thousands of employees get health insurance.

A number of insurance companies are participating in the marketplace where employers determine the dollar amount they will contribute toward the employee insurance plans. Then employees can go to the marketplace and compare and contrast various offered plans to see which one suits them and their family best.

Avenue H proponents tout the fact that the state-run marketplace enables employers to control their costs by defining and limiting contributions to health care costs, while giving employees the ability to examine a number of plans quickly and make personal decisions about which form of coverage is appropriate.

Some say it's still too early to tell how the federal government's health insurance marketplace might help or hurt small and large businesses.

Others insist the feds should have followed Utah's example of doing a test run of its small business website before a full-scale launch. 

Source: Sacramento Bee, "Slow start for health overhaul in Utah," by Brady McCombs, Nov. 13, 2013 AvenueH.com, "Common Questions," Nov. 2013

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