New Bill Could Raise Health Insurance Costs in Utah

New Bill Could Raise Health Insurance Costs in Utah

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Ed Yeates ReportingA confrontation between some lawmakers and Utah's largest hospital chain took on a different dimension today, from a small garage south of Salt Lake.

Senate Bill 61 proposes a tax on privately owned health care chains, but by its definition really only singles out Intermountain Health Care. That worries some insurance carriers, but more importantly, small businesses.

Dave Call, Deseret Mutual Benefit Association: “This legislation has the potential to impact our cost by as much as a million dollars a year.”

Dave Call with insurance carrier DMBA says if IHC gets taxed, those who now contract for its services will simply pay more. And if customers like DMBA, Blue Cross or United Health Care have to pay, guess who pays more for insurance premiums?

Dave Call: “This would have to be passed on right through to the customers, of which we have about 50,000 in the state.”

Lawmakers say the bill is designed to force an IHC monopoly to divest its health insurance division, providing a more healthy field for competition. But since IHC is a non-profit chain, others say it has a unique ability to hold down health care costs, making some pretty good deals with small businesses.

The news conference itself was held at a garage in Murray. The owner of the small business there said he had a special reason for holding it there. Though Tom Henry can just barely afford to provide insurance for his employees, he's doing it because for now it's reasonable.

Tom Henry, Owner, Turn Key Automotive Service: “This increase is going to mean an average to our families of about $85 a month. And it would put a very large strain on our ability to insure them and our ability to make a profit in this business.”

For Gary William's company, which has only seven employees…

Gary Williams, Salt Lake Valley Auto Sales & Service: “That’s money out of my pocket and it’s going to be hard to keep a business going in this state.”

And what about AutoLiv which employs four to five thousand employees, how much more for them?

Scott Baxter, Autoliv Inc: “For an individual carrying family level coverage, that would be approximately $120 to $130 per month.”

Despite the opposition, those pushing the legislation say the extra tax would provide more needed money for schools. The bill is still in committee awaiting a hearing.

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