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Utah offers assistance with health plan premiums


SALT LAKE CITY--Up to 1,000 employed Utah residents who cannot afford their share of their employer-sponsored health insurance premiums will be eligible to apply for premium assistance from the state beginning Wednesday, the state Department of Health said.

The Utah Premium Partnership for Health Insurance program is an enhancement of the Covered at Work program that launched in 2003 and provided up to $50 per month in premium assistance per plan member. Under UPP, participants can receive up to $150 per adult and up to $100 per child per month, with no limit on the number of children enrolled.

To qualify, applicants must be U.S. citizens or legal residents not already covered by health insurance; they must be employed, and their employer must offer a health plan where the employer pays at least half of the total premium; and they must meet specific household income guidelines.

The program is limited to the first 1,000 individuals who qualify.

State lawmakers are expected to consider legislation this winter to expand the program, but they are waiting to gauge interest before making any additional changes.

According to a survey released last year by the Utah Health Department, there are 292,800 uninsured people in the state, 59% of whom say the high cost of health insurance is the reason they lack coverage. The 2005 Utah Health Status Survey found that 45,400 Utah adults working full-time would be covered under their employers' health plans if they felt they could better afford the monthly premium.

A 2004 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey of employer-sponsored health insurance in Utah found that the total average monthly insurance premium for family coverage was $721, and that employers generally paid 72% of that amount.