Gov. reaches “conceptual” agreement with HHS on Healthy Utah

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Photo: Local Utahn discusses potential benefits of the Healty Utah Plan with Gov. Herbert

While in Washington, D.C. yesterday, Gov. Herbert met with the secretary of health and human services, Sylvia Burwell, to hammer out an agreement on the Healthy Utah plan. Following the meeting the governor said he has reached a “conceptual” agreement.

It’s important to remember, our ultimate goal is not simply to provide health care for the 111,000  Utahns who were left without insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Rather, our goal is to help those in need by providing assistance to purchase coverage while ultimately helping them qualify for and secure better employment so they no longer need the Healthy Utah plan.

And that’s the positive news from yesterday’s meeting with HHS. The governor and secretary agreed on the concept of work being an important part of the plan and critical to helping people out of poverty.

The next steps? The governor will meet in the coming days with legislative leadership to work out the details of the mechanism that helps Healthy Utah applicants connect with successful job training and placement programs already offered through the Dept. of Workforce Services. Of course, we still have details to finalize with HHS, as well.

The Healthy Utah plan is a three-year pilot program that will accomplish the goal of taking care of the neediest among us in a fiscally responsible way and in accordance with the four principles outlined by the governor in the State of the State address:

• Individual responsibility
• Support private markets
• Maximize flexibility within existing government programs
• Respect the taxpayer

In short, we are working to bring back tax dollars Utahns have already paid to help those living at or slightly above the federal poverty level gain access to private health insurance. All participants in the plan will help pay for the cost of their health care through co-payments. In addition, those with slightly higher incomes will be required to pay two percent of their monthly income to help cover the cost for the insurance premiums.

One of the biggest benefits is, as part of this pilot program, parents with children on Medicaid will be given the option to put their entire family on their private market plan. Family life these days is difficult enough without trying to manage health care through multiple networks, with multiple sets of rules.

The Healthy Utah plan is the best way to help Utahns in need get the health coverage they need while also connecting them with job training and job-search programs that will help them improve their circumstances.