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Utahns shopping for health insurance on the federal exchange can expect prices that are 5.7 percent higher, on average, next year.

Small businesses that go through the state's Avenue H exchange will see more modest increases averaging 3.5 percent, state insurance executives told the Legislature's Health Reform Task Force.

But rural Utahns will watch rates for their individual plans increase by 7 percent on average.

Utah Insurance Commissioner Todd Kiser called the price hikes "minimal," because they are more modest than the 10-percent-per-year increases that were typical before the Affordable Care Act.

Nonetheless, Kiser said, consumers should not just renew their plans because they may find better options this year on the federal marketplace for individuals,, and on Avenue H, the state marketplace for businesses with 50 or fewer employees.

"They may have significant savings if they will shop (for) their policies," Kiser said.

Utahns living in rural areas will see steeper rate increases than those in urban areas, Tanji Northrup, Utah's assistant insurance commissioner, told the lawmakers.

The rates are not yet final, but the Utah Insurance Department is recommending them to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ( and to Avenue H.

The feds and Avenue H have until Oct. 30 to make final decisions on the rates.

Individuals can shop for 2015 insurance on starting Nov. 15. Enrollment via Avenue H is year-round.

Kiser said 900 plans were submitted to the Insurance Department for 2015, more than double the number for 2014.

But much of the growth simply reflects that the department is no longer allowing health plans to offer dental riders. Instead, insurance companies will offer plans with and without dental or pediatric dental coverage. The various permutations mean more plans to choose from.

Six companies will offer 108 plans to individual Utahns on the federal exchange, up from 96 this year. Such plans also have to be available off the exchange. Six companies, three of them new, are offering 148 plans exclusively off the exchange.

Small-business employees will have a plethora of options: 75 plans from three companies on Avenue H and 576 plans from seven companies off the exchange.

Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, said that increased number of plans will make it even harder for consumers shopping on the federal marketplace,

"You're going to have to scroll through a lot more pages," he said.

Twitter: @KristenMoulton —

Medicaid expansion

The task force learned a bit more Thursday about the tentative waiver agreement between Gov. Gary Herbert and the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.

Instead of expanding Medicaid, the state's Healthy Utah plan would get $258 million per year from the feds to give 111,000 low-income Utahns subsidies to buy private health insurance.

Herbert had insisted that able recipients be required to work or seek work, but HHS resisted that.

Now both have agreed to a "work effort," in which those who sign up for insurance subsidies will automatically be enrolled with the Department of Workforce Services for help finding a job or training for one.

That the term "work requirement" is off the table does not matter much, Patton said.

"We're past that," Patton said. "We're getting what we want without having to use that word."

Those who refuse job training or seeking help could opt out, but it's an option the state would not advertise, Patton said.

But Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, said HHS' insistence that there not be a work requirement is frustrating.

"Maybe just thinking about work would qualify," Gibson said, facetiously.

Sixty percent of those who would qualify for coverage under Utah's Medicaid expansion already work. Companies that will offer 2015 health insurance plans to Utahns on the federal marketplace,, as well as off the exchange are:




Humana of Utah