Gov. Gary Herbert’s decision to basically give up on Utah’s Avenue H health care insurance as a template for the implementation of federal health care requirements is the wrong call for Utahns.
Health care reform, the Affordable Care Act, is the law. It was the responsibility of Utah’s leaders to work with the feds and turn Avenue H into a system that met federal standards.
That was always going to be a tough task for a variety of reasons. One is that Avenue H, despite being highly touted for years, has been slow to build. Avenue H uses a defined-contribution model, with employees shopping for health care with money from employers. The new health care law requires universal coverage, with extra infusions of Medicaid funds.
What Herbert wants is Avenue H to stay as a portal for businesses and have the feds set up for Utah its own version of universal coverage, with Medicaid infusions, for those Utahns who need health care via the new law. Also, he wants Avenue H to not screen employees for Medicaid, or even refer them. We fail to see why the feds would want to go to the effort and expense of setting up a health care exchange for Utah and then allow Utah to maintain a separate tiny, boutique-like health care insurance option free of federal regulation.
Just last month, the governor trumpeted his “success” at gaining conditional approval from the feds to expand Avenue H for individuals and make it Utah’s option under Obamacare. That optimism faded as Herbert ran into a legislative leadership that openly scorns the new health care law and wants nothing to do it with. Such stubborn behavior may satisfy political biases, but it accomplishes nothing.
So now we’re faced with a governor asking the feds to do all the hard work on health care insurance access, yet leave Avenue H alone. Why bother, since the plan no longer has any pretense of fitting the needs required by the feds?