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

State Officials Work On Details Of Health Exchange Extension

AP/Toby Talbot
Commissioner Mark Larson of the Department of Vermont Health gave lawmakers an update on Tuesday on efforts to fix the beleaguered Vermont Health Connect website.

Last week, the Governor announced that he’s extending the deadline to sign up for policies on the state’s new health care exchange because the exchange has experienced so many technical problems.

How does the plan extension work in terms of my deductible and co payments and out of pocket maximum ? Health Care Director Robin Lunge

Under his plan, individuals and small businesses with fewer than 50 employees could extend their current coverage for three months – until the end of March.  At that time, they would need to go through the exchange to purchase coverage.

Robin Lunge is the director of Health Care Reform for the Administration. She says the key questions that need to be resolved involve  practical concerns that affect most consumers.

“How does the plan extension work in terms of my deductible and co payments and out of pocket maximum?” said Lunge. “We need to work through that kind of plan detail with the carriers.”

The governor’s extension plan also allows small businesses to purchase their coverage directly through Blue Cross and MVP.  Lunge says the Administration is encouraging individuals to still use the exchange so that they can take full advantage of federal subsidies that are available.

“As you may know the vast majority of individuals who are covered in a way other than their employer they’re actually on public programs already,” said Lunge. “So there’s a very, very small individual market.”

Lunge says one thing is clear. Consumers will not face an increase in their premiums if they choose the three month extension of their current policies.

“There’s nothing to discuss there because there’s not a legal option to change the rates,” said Lunge.

The federal Affordable Care Act also requires the insurance companies to send out cancelation notices to notify consumers that their current policies are no longer available through the exchange.

Blue Cross Vice President Kevin Goddard is hoping to use this process as a way to educate people about their options on the exchange.

“With those notifications we will be helping them understand that they’re being cancelled but these exchanges products are available to them and how they can go about selecting the products etc.”

Goddard is hoping that consumers won’t be alarmed by the cancellation notices.

“Having said that it probably will be a surprise to some folks because the communications challenges here are very, very significant,” said Goddard. “Despite all of our best efforts we continue to hear from people who don’t fully understand what these changes are and how they affect them.”

State officials say some of the exchange’s technical problems have been solved but the on line electronic payment system still isn’t working and there’s no specific time frame for it to be in place.

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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