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

Shumlin Says Health Exchange Problems Will be Fixed Gradually

Governor Peter Shumlin says the state is making progress eliminating some of the technical problems at Vermont’s new health exchange. But the Governor says it’s not realistic to expect that all of the problems will be fixed at once. Instead, he sees them improving over a period of time.

The state is working to correct glitches that have blocked some people from moving through the exchange because parts of the website sometimes won’t connect to others.

Officials also want to make it possible for consumers and small businesses to pay for their coverage using an on line electronic payment system.

All I can tell you is we are fixing it as we go - it is going to happen in stages not in one great roll out - Gov. Peter Shumlin

Shumlin says the website is working better every day but he doesn’t expect of all the problems to be corrected with a single solution:

“I’ve told you we’re going to fix this thing I told you I’m responsible for the problems,” said Shumlin. “All I can tell you is we are fixing it as we go it’s going to happen in stages not in one great roll out.”

Shumlin says the state is testing out the on line payment system right now and the goal is to have it up and operating by December first.

“I’ll never say a date again but I’m very hopeful that we’ll have it up and running by the end of the month,” said Shumlin. “That’s my hope. I’m not promising it.”

Because of the ongoing technical problems at Vermont Health Connect, last week the Governor announced the availability of some new options.  Individuals and small businesses can elect to keep their current policies until the end of March or they can purchase coverage directly from Blue Cross or MVP and by pass the exchange completely.

Shumlin says he’s hoping that additional contingency options won’t be needed but he says he needs to be ready for that possibility.

“My job as governor is to have an answer to every single eventuality that could possibly occur even the bleakest,” said Shumlin. “Of course I’m going to do that until this thing’s working perfectly.”

And Shumlin says he’s frustrated by the problems and by news reports that he says have portrayed him as being naively confident that the website would be fixed quickly.

“I sometimes get the sense when I read the stories that I had on these rose colored glasses that I had been in Colorado or Washington state smoking something legal and I had no idea what was going on,” said Shumlin. “You know we were on top of it it’s not pleasant, it’s not happy. I take full responsibility for where we are but we have had contingencies when we’ve needed them and we will continue to until this thing is working perfectly.” 

The Governor is scheduled to join with Vermont hospital officials on Tuesday to announce an outreach campaign to help make patients more aware of their options under Vermont Health Connect.

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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