Vt. health care group says most small biz covered

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — About three-quarters of Vermont small business employees are enrolled in a health insurance plan that’s part of Vermont Health Connect, and they are set to begin receiving health benefits through the new system next month, the Department of Vermont Health Access announced Monday.

Like the federal health care website, Vermont’s site has been plagued with problems. However, the commissioner in charge of Vermont’s site, Mark Larson, said the state is on track to meet the goal of ensuring that no one has a lapse in health insurance coverage at the beginning of the year.

About 39,300 Vermonters and their dependents will be covered through their small business employers as part of the federal Affordable Care Act reforms.

“Vermonters who get their coverage through a small business today, will have coverage available to them in January without gaps because of the options that have been extended to their employers,” Larson said Monday.

He said safeguards are in place to ensure others don’t see a lapse in coverage and have a path to coverage while testing continues on premium processing functions for small businesses.

After the problems with the website became apparent, the state made a number of changes to the system to ensure people get coverage.

Other statistics provided by the department Monday showed:

— About 29,200 Vermonters will be enrolled in a Vermont Health Connect plan for 2014. About two-thirds of those are covered by a small business that chose to directly enroll with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont or MVP Health Care while a third are covered by employers that will be automatically enrolled in a plan that most closely resembles their current coverage;

— About 5,800 Vermont residents will have their current coverage extended for up to three months.

— About 3,500 residents will have their current coverage extended for up to three months until the payment functions are operational on Vermont Health Connect.

— About 800 will go through Vermont Health Connect as individuals for January coverage because their employer decided to no longer offer coverage next year.

Darcie Johnston, head of Vermonters for Health Care Freedom and a frequent critic of the state’s health system overhaul efforts, said she wouldn’t quibble with the department’s numbers, but it didn’t change her group’s call for a one-year extension of implementing the program.

“The best thing that Vermont Health Connect did was they got out of the way. Remember, businesses wouldn’t have been in this mess if it hadn’t been for their spectacular failure,” she said. “They’ve still forced businesses to make decision and choices that may or may not be what they wanted to do and may or may not be the best for their business or their employees.”

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