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

Deadline Looming, Vermont Health Connect Glitch Shakes Users

With a March 15 deadline looming, some Vermonters trying to sign up for health insurance through the state's exchange were unable to log into the system on Friday.

Carrie Ables was planning on signing up for her new insurance plan on Vermont Health Connect at an event last week in Montpelier.

Instead, Ables came down with appendicitis and spent the weekend in the hospital, covered by her old plan, which expires at the end of the month.

"I was told that there were system-wide problems happening all over, and that not even the person trying to assist me could get into the system to perhaps fix this early problem." - Carrie Ables, on her experience Friday with Vermont Health Connect.

On Friday, just a day before the deadline for coverage starting April 1, Ables was feeling well enough to try to sign up for a new plan on Vermont Health Connect.

It took three tries for her to create an account, and when it finally worked, Ables said she couldn’t log in.

“I keep getting consistently a message that says that either my password or username is not recognized, so I’m unable to even get into the system,” she said Friday.

A call to the Vermont Health Connect help line was no more helpful.

“I was told that there were system-wide problems happening all over, and that not even the person trying to assist me could get into the system to perhaps fix this early problem,” she said.

All of this took place around noon on Friday, 36 hours before the deadline to sign up for coverage starting April 1.

Vermont Health Connect workers fixed the problem quickly – by about 1 p.m., Larson said – and the system was up and running. After lunch, Ables tried again.

“And initially it was throwing me off again,” she said, “but I was tenacious. I ignored the failure messages and I kept trying, and eventually I just got on. And actually once I got on, it was a remarkably smooth process.”

Mark Larson, the commissioner of Vermont Health Access, said Vermonters on state-subsidized health plans should be especially aware of Saturday’s deadline.

“It’s particularly important for those who are on VHAP and Catamount, who will have their coverage … end at the end of March,” he said. “That was the extension period.”

Ables, who is self-employed, is on her own private health plan. She said she is generally optimistic about the health care exchange, and even her midday frustration didn’t change that.

“This experience actually hasn’t soured me on the health care plans – the new system – and I actually do stand to save money with this new plan,” she said Friday afternoon. “If I can ever get online and sign up for it.”

She was able to do that by later Friday afternoon. With Ables and many others signed up, Larson said the Department of Vermont Health Access is still working hard to get Vermonters signed up by the end of the exchange’s open enrollment period on March 31.

After that, most Vermonters won’t have access to the exchange until the 2015 enrollment period begins.

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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