Lawmakers advance health care reform measure

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SALT LAKE CITY-- Utah lawmakers Wednesday advanced a fix for Utah's health care system. The reform is aimed at the 300,000 Utahns who don't have health insurance right now.

Health care is one of the few things you pay for without knowing what the cost is ahead of time. It also can be a "take it or leave it" kind of service with limited choices.

Utah's Legislature is working with Gov. Jon Huntsman to take a step toward changing that. They're on the verge of creating something called NetCare. It's meant for small businesses or people who have lost their insurance.

House Speaker Rep. David Clark, R-Santa Clara, said, "We're trying to work structurally to solve the cost aspect. We've done quite a bit with access. We will do more."

The system would let people shop for the best health care coverage online. Premiums might cost one-third less than current options. However, deductibles would be larger than average. For example, the deductible for name brand prescription drugs would be 50 percent higher.

It's not perfect, but a long-time Intermountain Healthcare executive turned consultant, John T. Nielson, says it's significant.

"We will be looking at it as a model in terms of how the process worked but also the substance of those bills. I think they're very, very significant," he said.

This year's packet of bills is reform in the second year in a 10-year plan to overhaul health care. More still needs to be done.

House Minority Leader David Litvack, D-Salt Lake City, said, "One issue that's very close to my heart that I have concerns about is when we look at the mandates and benefit issues. We're going to study them."

Utah's health care reform efforts are well ahead of those in other states. President Obama reaffirmed the need for a systemic overhaul in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.


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Richard Piatt


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