Co-Op health plan comes to Utah

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A new type of health insurance is making its way into the Utah market.

Arches Health Plan, based in Salt Lake, was granted an $85 million federal loan in 2012. The company recently received the go-ahead to begin consumer enrollment starting in October, with clients receiving coverage beginning January 2014.

As the face of health care across the nation continues to evolve, companies compete with each other in an attempt to offer consumers affordable and understandable insurance coverage options.

Utahns are getting a new option on the health care market. (Photo courtesy Arches Health Plan)
Utahns are getting a new option on the health care market. (Photo courtesy Arches Health Plan)

Arches currently serves as Utah’s only co-op, or “Consumer Operated and Oriented Health Plan”.

Distinguishable from other health care plans, co-ops place much of their power in the hands of the consumer. It is both allowed and required that future company executives be elected, and, in the upcoming years, the majority of board members will be Arches clients.

The company “encourages members to take responsibility for their own health through a health action plan that they develop themselves with their doctor,” according to their website.

Shaun Greene, Arches Chief Operating Officer, said a main focus is restructuring the way payments and treatments are handled.

“I would sum up the concepts [of our company] in one phrase: payment reform,” Greene said. “We’re looking to change the nature of payments and change the incentives. Let’s incent providers to keep people healthy rather than keeping them sick.”

The Patient Protection Affordable Care Act mandates every American have at least a minimum-coverage insurance policy beginning in January or they will be additionally taxed. As one of many private health care options for Utah consumers, Arches will be competing for business and for success.

The company focuses on an enhanced primary care model, which argues that paying closer attention to patients and their needs while at their primary care physician’s office can help save thousands of dollars in costly tests and often unnecessary visits to specialists.

“If you take care of people at the primary care level, the lowest level where they have basic needs, they [later on] don’t need a lot of the expensive care,” Greene said.

Many students who are not covered by their parents’ health care plan or whose jobs do not include a health insurance package may be turning to options like Arches in the near future.

“I honestly don’t feel informed enough to make insurance decisions because I’ve never had to,” Katie Burdick, a senior studying media arts, said. “It’s scary because the world doesn’t really teach us about health insurance, and I would love to know more.”

Janna Mertz, who hails from Antelope, California, also said she does not currently know enough to make insurance decisions.

“I’m on BYU’s health insurance plan right now, and my husband is still on his parents’,” Mertz said. “If I had to go out into the world right now and find my own plan, I would have a really hard time.”

Arches said they are focusing on making their plans understandable and straightforward, especially to people who have no previous experience or health care knowledge. Although coverage will be available to everyone in Utah, an emphasis will be on educating those who are new to the process.

“We are looking at the young people who are on the outside looking in,” Greene said. “The young immortals that haven’t really felt they needed health insurance up until now, and the 300,000-400,000 uninsured in the state of Utah. We have a great plan for everyone.”

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