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

Shumlin Delays Implementation of Health Exchange For Three Months

VPR/ Bob Kinzel
Gov. Peter Shumlin announces contingency plan for Health Care Exchange rollout.

Vermont Health Connect has encountered a variety of technical problems in the month that it has been in operation.  People still report problems signing on to the website and the electronic payment system has never worked.

A week ago, the Governor expressed confidence that these technical issues would be resolved in a short period of time. But now he says it’s clear that they won’t be.

“The level of progress with Vermont Health Connect’s corrections has been slow enough so that I have determined that we need to add some additional options to ensure that Vermonters have no fear that they will lose coverage if they can’t find a way to navigate the system before the January first deadline,” Shumlin said.

This is not working the way I wish it were and we have got to find other options that will make sure it does work. It does not make me happy to be standing here - Gov. Peter Shumlin

The Governor determined that a contingency plan was needed when a full test of the electronic payment system was unsuccessful on Wednesday night.

“I said listen the clock’s ticking Vermonters need certainty. I cannot look at the cameras and say I know for a fact that this will be fixed in time to get everybody 70,000 folks through the pipeline by January first,” said Shumlin. “You know I’ve just got to be honest with Vermonters this isn’t working the way I wish it were and we’ve got to find other options that will make sure it does work. It doesn’t make me happy to be standing here.”

The Governor outlined several options. All individuals and small businesses with fewer than 50 employees can elect to keep their current coverage through the end of March. This will also apply to people enrolled in Catamount Health Care.

And businesses will be able to purchase coverage directly from Blue Cross and MVP without going through the exchange.  Don George is the president of Blue Cross.

“I think the options today are at the optimal time and that they are the optimal combination of choices to absolutely respond to Vermonters issues and concerns that have been raised,” George said.

The state’s business community responded favorably to the Governor’s announcement. Tom Torti is the president of the Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce – an organization the represents 2,500 businesses and 60,000 employees.

“This gives a level of comfort to small businesses that they can go ahead and plan and to their employees that they don’t have to worry about health care themselves for heir families,” said Torti.

The Governor says he’s confident that the technical problems with the health care exchange will be fixed long before the March 31st deadline and that there will be no need to extend the current set of options beyond that 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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