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Utah's Avenue H health insurance exchange program is 'a win-win'

Utah's Avenue H health insurance exchange program is 'a win-win'

While the Massachusetts Connector is the best-known state health insurance exchange, health insurance policies also have been available in Utah's exchange, known as Avenue H, since 2011.

But Avenue H differs in a key way in that there are no premium subsidies.

Avenue H is offered only to employers with up to 50 eligible full-time employees — those working at least 30 hours a week.

Rather than state-provided premium subsidies, Avenue H uses a defined contribution model in which employers allocate a flat amount of money for employees to use to purchase coverage from the three insurers that participate in the exchange: Regence Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah, SelectHealth Inc. and United Healthcare Services Inc.

If an employee selects a high-deductible health plan that costs less than the employer's contribution, the employee could, for example, put the difference in a health savings account and later withdraw HSA contributions to pay for uncovered health care expenses.

“This defined contribution model really gives more choice to all sides: Employers choose to contribute an amount that fits their overall budget, while employees shop for the health care option that best fits their family needs,” said a spokesman for Avenue H.

“So far, considering our 92% renewal rate, it seems like a win-win for everyone involved,” he added.

Currently, 335 employers obtain coverage through Avenue H to cover 2,840 employees and a total of 8,016 lives.

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