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Individuals, Not Businesses, Can Now Pay Online At Vt. Health Connect

The Shumlin Administration has made some progress with the online payment system at the state’s new health care exchange.

The system now works for individuals who want to purchase coverage at Vermont Health Connect but problems remain for small businesses.

Since its official launch last fall, the exchange's website has encountered a series of technical problems.

One of those problems was the inability for customers to pay online. To deal with this issue, individuals were sent a bill after they selected a policy and small businesses were allowed to bypass the exchange and purchase their coverage directly from the insurance companies.

Now part of this problem has been solved. Commerce Secretary Lawrence Miller has been working with Vermont Health Connect in recent months. He says the online system for individuals now works.

Miller says this is important because the enrollment period for coverage ends on March 15. After this date, individuals will have to wait until next year to get coverage.

Miller says the deadline primarily affects people still on Catamount Health Care, uninsured individuals, sole proprietors and employees who work at businesses that no longer offer health insurance.

"So we are going to make sure that well before the time that we would need an alternate plan, that we are able to execute that if necessary." - Commerce Secretary Lawrence Miller on contingency planning in case online payment system for small businesses is not working by September.

“Those are the populations we’re most interested in making sure get on to the exchange and select their plans, and they have until the end of March to pay,” said Miller. “But with this new electronic payment functionality they can go ahead and easily do that at the time that they enroll rather than having to wait for an invoice or send a check.”

Miller says getting the online system to work wasn’t easy because it required the coordination of state and federal systems, the insurance carriers, and credit card companies.

“There’s a lot of complexity to it. So we wanted to make sure that all of those connections were going to be executed correctly,” said Miller. “This is an area where security in particular is very important.”

Miller says the online payment system for small businesses still doesn’t work. He’s confident it will be ready by Labor Day so that businesses can purchase their coverage for 2015. But he’s developing a contingency plan just it case the system isn’t ready next fall.

We want to make sure there is no potential for a gap or chaos,” Miller said. “So we are going to make sure that well before the time that we would need an alternate plan that we are able to execute that if necessary.”

If the system isn’t ready for small businesses in September, it’s likely that the administration will allow these businesses to continue to purchase their coverage directly from the insurance companies for another year.

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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