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

Shumlin Promises Exchange Glitches Will Be Resolved Soon

AP/Toby Talbot
Governor Peter Shumlin

Gov. Peter Shumlin says he’s “absolutely confident” that technical problems with Vermont’s health care exchange will be fixed in the next few weeks. 

The governor said he is developing a contingency plan, but he said it’s much too early to focus on this proposal.

At an afternoon news conference in Montpelier, reporters peppered Shumlin with questions about the technical problems affecting Vermont Health Connect. For instance, you can select a plan at the website but you can’t make a payment online and a number of people have had trouble logging on to the website.

The governor insisted that Health Connect is working through its technical issues and he noted that the number of people selecting plans has grown from 800 last Friday to over 1,400 today.

Throughout the news conference, Shumlin repeatedly expressed full confidence that all of the technical bugs will be worked out soon.

 “I continue to be absolutely confident that Vermont Health Connect will work effectively for Vermonters. I appreciate the patience of Vermonters and we will get this right,” he said.

Shumlin said it’s only prudent for him to develop some contingency plans in the event that technical problems continue, but he said it’s way too early to have that discussion:

 “If we need contingency plans  if some part of it won’t work exactly the way we want we’ll be prepared to deal with that,” he said.

Vermont is one of 14 states that decided to set up its own health care exchange. In the other states, the federal government is creating the exchange. Shumlin said those states are experiencing much more serious problems.

“Because with the frustrations that Vermonters are experiencing with Vermont Health Connect I can assure you that we are in a much better position than those that are using the federal hub,” he said.

The state’s main contractor for Vermont Health Connect, CGI, has missed a number of key deadlines. CGI is also responsible for building the federal exchange. Shumlin said the state will consider assessing penalties on CGI, but he doesn’t think this is the time to take that action:

 “I am not going to ask my team to sit down now and distract themselves by figuring out who might owe whom what when based upon the expectations that haven’t been met at this point,” he said. “So we have not waived our right to ensure that we get some compensation for the disappointing results that we had in the beginning of the launch.”

Vermont is the only state in the country that require all individuals and small businesses with fewer than 50 employees to go through the exchange to purchase coverage starting in January.

On Wednesday, House and Senate Republican leaders in Vermont called on the governor to waive that mandate if the exchange is not fully operational by Dec. 1.

Shumlin says that waiver won’t be needed because he’s confident everything will be working as designed well before the December first date.

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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