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How is the One Utah Health Collaborative announced in 2021 working to improve health care?

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SALT LAKE CITY — When Utah Gov. Spencer Cox announced a statewide initiative to reduce health care costs in late 2021, he called it “one of the most transformative and visionary health care efforts” in the country.

Eighteen months later, Cox is calling the One Utah Health Collaborative a “heavy, heavy lift,” but says he is feeling good about the direction in which the process is headed.

“It is big, and it is bold, and it will take all of us working together to accomplish,” the governor said during his monthly news conference on Thursday.

The One Utah Health Collaborative takes a unique approach to address problems “through collaboration and innovation rather than regulation,” according to a written progress update provided to by Elise Saarela, the collaborative’s program director. It also has three roles: Commit to action, align the community and accelerate innovation.

“Our approach is bold but respectful as we drive consensus-based approaches,” the update says.

Although Cox said change is expected to take 10 years, the collaborative’s update says it has a 15-year roadmap to “improve affordability, equity and outcomes for Utahns.”

Community involvement

The collaborative said the health care industry is getting involved by signing a pledge and making commitments to align with the collaborative’s goals.

The Legislature passed some Utah Medicaid bills associated with the collaborative during this year’s legislative session, including extending postpartum coverage from 60 days to 12 months; creating a waiver to provide family planning health care for people who have incomes slightly higher than the eligibility for Medicaid; expanding the children’s insurance program to children without citizenship; and expanding preventive care services and dental services for adults.

Cox said because about 30% of Utahns are on some sort of government-provided benefits, Medicaid is one place the collabrative can start to make a difference.

He said there were several pieces of legislation associated with the collaborative introduced in the 2023 legislative session and while some of them passed, there are others they are continuing to work on.

“They’re working both with the private sector as well as the public sector. They’re working with the nonprofit sector on different ideas that can be implemented to help us reduce those costs,” Cox said.

The collaborative is supported by a community board and has 36 members representing various providers, employers, government officials and industry leaders, including representatives from health care organizations and health insurance companies. It expects more involvement as the collaborative continues to expand.

Cox said the goal is to get everyone in a room to find ways to make changes.

“They’re very unified, and we’ve been so impressed with the hospital association here in the state,” he said. “They’re working with doctors and nursing associations, as well. They’re working on the pharma side of things — that’s another big, expensive piece of this — (and) working with private insurance, another area where there’s some misaligned incentives.”


The collaborative has started working toward three specific initiatives and has completed a listening tour to increase awareness as it looks for more support from the community.

The first initiative of the collaborative was to address health data, and the Digital Health Pilot and associated work group was launched on April 10. Its goal, the collaboration’s update says, is to enhance data exchange among health care providers and lead to improved patient care.

It also partnered with the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute to create a “cost growth target” for the state. The collaborative is collecting and evaluating data to help it find areas where it can make the most impactful changes.

The third initiative is to promote and support innovation in the hopes of accelerating it. The collaborative is forming an Innovation Advisory Committee to review community submissions and determine how to provide support. The update said the collaborative has received dozens of qualified applicants who want to help make health care reforms as they work to finalize the committee membership in June.

“With several innovation submissions in the pipeline, we anticipate our committee will get straight to work,” the update says.

One of the innovation projects is streamlining the application for health insurance coverage for commercial and other health plans.

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Emily Ashcraft joined as a reporter in 2021. She covers courts and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.

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