Re-Branding the Failure of the Utah Health Exchange
Kirsten Stewart reports that Utah is 'rebranding' the Utah Health Exchange (http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/55025728-78/health-exchange-utah-avenu...). Excerpts:
Don’t call Utah’s Health Exchange an exchange.
The state’s two-year-old health insurance marketplace has a new name: Avenue H.
"For many people the word ‘exchange’ connotes government, and we want to remind Utah’s small business owners and their employees that we are built on free-market ideals," Avenue H director Patty Conner said at a Thursday press conference to announce a new look and feel for the online shopping tool.
The state is spending $190,000 of a $1 million federal grant on the re-branding and outreach effort.
"We want every small business in the state to know about this program," said Conner. Avenue H says "easy" and "friendly," she said, and conveys a better road to custom-fit, custom-priced health coverage.
Utah isn’t the only state in re-branding phase.
California is exploring labels for its exchange, ranging from "Healthifornia" to "Cal-Vida," or strangely, "Avocado." Maryland favors "Connector," following the example of the father of all exchanges in Massachusetts.
Whether these cosmetic upgrades will drum up business, or confuse consumers, remains to be seen.
Utah’s exchange has been slow to catch on. Currently about 306 of Utah’s 18,000 small businesses use it to buy health benefits. Of those, 32 percent previously offered no coverage.
Experts credit Massachusetts’ success to a requirement that people have health insurance and to government subsidies that make coverage on the exchange affordable. State-run exchanges envisioned by federal health reform would function the same way.
Comment posted on the SL Tribune website by Dee Oltman:
Typical. Why work on fixing deficiencies when you can roll out a shiny new name instead.
Exchange connotes government? Guess these anti-government conspiranoids better not have any stock traded on the New York Stock Exchange in their portfolios. The gift you received on your birthday is too small? Suck it up and make do. Wouldn't want to do something governmental and exchange it. Good luck explaining to the sales staff about how you need to Avenue H it.
$190,000 dollars on rebranding? Those who thought this was a good use of tax payer monies need branding. A big W on the forehead connoting wasteful.
How long will it take Utah's political leadership to learn that the Utah Health Exchange (excuse me, Avenue H) is a failure? Saying Utah's exchange (avenue?) is slow to catch on is a euphemism. Only 100 of Utah's small businesses which did not previously offer health benefits have chosen to participate, and yet our political leadership has been all over the country loudly proclaiming Utah to be the leader on health system reform. The 'rebranding' of the exchange surely proves that someone has noticed that this approach is not working. Rather than decide that the project needs a new name, why not acknowledge that the whole idea is silly? Utahns do not need a cosmetic upgrade for a concept that fails to reform anything about health care delivery or financing. If giving employers certainty about how much health benefits will cost, why not really change the way we finance health care? Employment based health benefits began during WWII. They are an accident of history. Let them become a part of our history and let's move on to something that will actually change what we are doing. We do not need health insurance. We need health care. Trying to make health insurance more affordable always makes the health care less affordable. Massachusetts has had to pass massive legislation this year because the connector and mandate Romney signed into law in 2006 did NOTHING to slow the growth of health care costs. Let's stop being silly about this.
Dr. Joe Jarvis