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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

State Officials Say Health Care Exchange Gives Employees Options

State officials say new health care exchange gives many employees many more options.

The new state health care exchange, known as Vermont Health Connect, is scheduled to begin enrolling people on October first for policies that go into effect in January.

At the outset, all individuals and businesses with fewer than 50 full time employees will need to go through the Exchange to purchase insurance. Larger businesses will have to wait until 2016 to buy their coverage this way.

Two insurance companies, Blue Cross and MVP, are each offering nine different plans on the Exchange. All the plans have the same benefit package but are priced according to the size of their deductibles and their potential out of pocket expenses.

Robin Lunge is the director of Health Care Reform in the Shumlin Administration. She says employees who work for businesses that offer insurance will have many new options in the Exchange.

The employee would have the choice of any plan offered by that insurance company - Robin Lunge -Director of Health Care reform

Under current law, Lunge says employers can choose a specific plan for all their employees but she says this is going to change in the future. She says businesses have two options available to them. 

“They can pick a specific company so I can go in and I can say I want my company to go with Blue Cross or I want my company to go with MVP. In that circumstance, the employee would have the choice of any plan offered by that company,” said Lunge. “The other choice that an employer has, would be I’m setting my contribution based on a particular plan but my employee can pick any plan that’s right for their needs and budget.” 

Mark Larson is the commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access. He says the Exchange will keep track of the employees’ options, and the company’s contribution to health care. It will then determine the appropriate payroll deductions to pay for the policies.

“Once the employees choose, the employer will get an aggregated bill even if their employees choose two different companies,” said Larson. “That will say this is how much the employer pays and a list of how much from each employee’s payroll would be deducted from their plan.”

The state has received more than $170 million from the federal government to put Vermont Health Connect in place.

The money is being used to hire new employees, upgrade the state’s computer systems and help launch a public education campaign about the project.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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