Affordable Care Act 101: Avenue H

By Glen Mills

Published 11/15 2013 04:53PM

Updated 11/16 2013 10:47PM

SALT LAKE CITY, (ABC 4 Utah) – The penalty for businesses with more than 50 employees that don’t comply with the Affordable Care Act was waived for next year, but in Utah businesses smaller than that are getting a head start.

It’s called Avenue H, an online, competitive market place where businesses with 50 employees or less can find health insurance options.

Those businesses aren’t mandated by the Affordable Care Act, but in 2016 it will be expanded to businesses with 51 to 100 employees, which are.

About 50% of workers get their pay check from the 67,000 small businesses in Utah.

Businesses like Heirloom Restaurant Group in Provo, that can struggle to come up with the funds to provide benefits for employees.

“We didn’t offer benefits, because as we looked into it, it was too expensive for us to afford. Because we are a small company, it was just out of our price range,” said HR Specialist, Emily Ensign.

That was before the company looked into Avenue H.

“It was like we were a large corporation, because there were enough people in the market place to where it brought the rates down to a place where they were affordable for us,” said Ensign.

The state began working on the concept in 2005, the law creating it was passed in 2008 and it was one of the first in the country to go live at in 2010, before the Affordable Care Act became law.

“Among 70 different health insurer plans and over 50 dental plans and HSA plans in one place, so they can see a comparison between prices and benefits,” said Patty Conner, Director of the Office of Consumer Health Services.

Conner says employers designate a contribution amount and employees go to the market place to pick the best plan for them.

In the state there are more than 800 certified brokers to help business owners and employees through Avenue H, brokers also provide service after the sale.

“The premiums already include the cost for the broker, so there are no additional fees that employers are paying out of pocket,” said Conner.

Certified brokers can be found under the agent search at

That’s what Heirloom Restaurant Group did and it changed the work environment.

“They feel like they are part of the company. They feel like we definitely care about them, that they are here for the long haul and we’re here to support them for the long haul,” said Ensign

Small businesses owners can log on to right now and register online.

After registration, employees can enroll until December 15th, for coverage that will begin on January 1st, 2014.

Businesses can be eligible for tax benefits under Avenue H as well.

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