Health exchange: Utah family gets coverage for $123 a month

The median family income in Salt Lake City was $ 68,578 in 2012, and the average-sized family is a family of three. Such a family, under the Affordable Care Act, would qualify for an annual subsidy of $ 897.88, or $ 74.82 per month.

Put toward the purchase of the second cheapest silver plan on the exchange — Select Value Preference Benchmark Silver 1000, which retails for $ 7,412.88 per year — this family’s monthly insurance rate would be $ 542.92.

That’s about double what the average employer-insured family pays in Utah because employers typically help pay for premiums. But exchange plans include a list of must-have benefits, such as mental health care, that many employer-based plans don’t cover.

And the value of employer-based coverage has declined over the years as more of the costs are pushed onto workers in the form of high deductibles, co-insurance and co-payments.

Sherburne, self-employed and uninsured for years, found a plan with no deductible and zero co-pays.

“It’s a big deal for our family,” said Sherburne, who has been paying cash for doctor visits and the occasional emergency room visit. They’ve so far avoided the kind of health calamity that forces families into bankruptcy.

Leia Bell, his wife, “this year had a bout with gall stones. The ER bill was about $ 3,000,” he said.

Sherburne and Bell own and run Signed & Numbered, a frame store in South Salt Lake. Business is steady, but they run on lean margins and a year-and-a-half after the shop’s opening, they had to make cuts and jettison their health benefits.

Sometime later, Sherburne tore his rotator cuff playing softball, pushing rates further beyond reach.

“From that point on, I was denied by most insurers,” he said. “We tried to get insurance for the business, but because of my injury they rated us up by 40 percent.”

Eager to survey the exchange, Sherburne tried shopping it on the morning of Oct. 1. He couldn’t get past the home page.

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