Tag Archives: Cassandra Gekas

Shumlin claims exchange victory

WINOOSKI — Gov. Peter Shumlin and his health care reform team said Monday they have met a key deadline in implementing a core function to Vermont Health Connect and plan to continue improving the online health insurance marketplace through the fall.

“Having Vermont Health Connect work as it was designed to is the best possible outcome for Vermont. There’s no question that the biggest challenge that we’ve faced since we launched is change-of-circumstance,” Shumlin said at a news conference Monday. “We set a deadline of today … and I’m pleased to announce that this team behind me and some who aren’t here have delivered.”

Shumlin said the upgrade of the site to include change-of-circumstance, the ability for customers to have their personal information changed online, meets the first of two self-imposed deadlines he laid out in March as he faced mounting pressure about the exchange’s performance. The upgrade, which is still being phased in by the administration, will allow customer service representatives to make changes to consumers’ accounts in an automated way.

The process until Monday required staff to make manual changes to accounts and sometimes included more than 20 different people to complete the process, according to Cassandra Gekas, operations manager for the exchange. Now, staff will be able to condense what was up to a two hour total process — and because of backlogs could take months to complete — should take about 10 minutes and be reflected on users’ accounts at the next billing cycle.


Chief of Health Care Reform Lawrence Miller speaks to reporters Monday while Gov. Peter Shumlin and other state officials look on.

“It means that we now have the capability, the tool, to be able to change your circumstance when things change for your insurance. And the outcome of that, as we get it up and running, will be a much smoother system that has been evading us since we launched,” Shumlin said.

Shumlin promised the change-of-circumstance function would be operational by the end of May. He also promised that an automated renewal process would be in place by Oct. 1. The state’s main contractor, Optum, will now turn its attention to the second milestone, Shumlin said.

The promises in March followed a host of missed deadlines and technological setbacks since the exchange launched. The exchange, created under the federal Affordable Care Act, has never performed as expected and been a source of frustration for customers, the administration and lawmakers.

Shumlin said in March that failing to meet the goals would result in the state transitioning to an exchange run by the federal government, or perhaps a state-federal hybrid model. Shumlin said Monday his administration would continue to work with Optum and the two insurance carriers — Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont and MVP Health Care — that offer plans on the exchange to improve the site.

“There is no better solution for Vermont than to have our website work. Full stop. If there were the ability to partner with other states or state to solve our problems, we would have done that already,” the governor said. “We have been … incredibly frustrated by getting to this point and the point we need to be at for enrollment Oct. 1. But the best outcome for Vermont is to have their own website work and that’s what I will continue to try to achieve.”

The change-of-circumstance function is only being partially unveiled, however. For now, customers will need to continue to call customer service staff or fill out an online form to request a change to their personal information. The ability for customers to make their own changes online will not be allowed until October, officials said.

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Scott retains the key Republican stronghold seat

Shortly after 11 p.m., Lt. Gov. Phil Scott said he accepted Gekas’ concession in the race.
“We were a well-oiled machine,” he said, calling his campaign creative, positive and issues-driven.
He said although he was successful and other Republican candidates weren’t, they should hold their heads high as they left the building.

Pro-single-payer group sprouts a PAC, begins pushing statewide and local candidates

The well-funded pro-single-payer group called “Vermont Leads” has launched its own political action committee.

Funded entirely by an out-of-state union, Vermont Leads earlier this summer aired a six-figure ad blitz urging voters to support single-payer. More recently, the group won headlines for picketing outside the Burlington home of Lenore Broughton, who has poured at least $680,000 of her own money into getting Republicans elected next Tuesday.

With Nov. 6 fast approaching, Vermont Leads has turned its focus from issue advocacy to electioneering, launching a PAC that is separate from the tax-exempt nonprofit that aired the TV ads.

Mass media filings submitted yesterday to the secretary of state’s office show that Vermont Leads PAC has spent about $13,000 on a series of mailings supporting statewide and local candidates.

Democratic candidates Cassandra Gekas (lite guv), Doug Hoffer (auditor), Peter Shumlin and Beth Pearce (treasurer) are all featured in the postcards.

The group is pushing five candidates for Senate – they look to be paying special attention to Franklin County and the Northeast Kingdom. The group is also supporting 14 candidates for the House.

Peter Sterling, executive director of Vermont Leads, has been up front from the beginning about the source of the group’s money. The Service Employees International Union doesn’t have a single member in Vermont, but says it’s underwriting the single-payer advocacy because its believes that if Vermont can pull off single-payer, then the program will spread to other states where it does have members.

Some view the SEIU’s interest in single-payer as a ploy to win the political clout it will need to pass a labor bill next year that would allow it to enlist more than 5,000 home-care workers in Vermont.

The Candidates Speak: Lt. Governor’s Race

Cassandra Gekas

Cassandra Gekas

Phill Scott

Phil Scott






We posed 5 questions to the candidates for Lieutenant Governor, Democrat Cassandra Gekas and Republican Phil Scott. Their answers, provided by email, are below.

Q: It’s April of 2014, and the sitting governor passes away before he was to sign into law a controversial bill with which you disagree vehemently. After being sworn in to serve out the remainder of the term, would you sign the bill? Or use your executive power to prevent it from becoming law?

Phil Scott: If I were ever to find myself in this unfortunate position, I would take a page from the Howard Dean playbook and respect the process. I think it would be important during that time of crisis to establish a sense of consistency. So, to answer the question, I might not sign the bill, but I would not use my executive power to veto it, either. (If the governor does nothing with a bill that crosses his or her desk, the bill becomes law.)

Cassandra Gekas: As an elected official, there are times when you must weigh your personal values against the recommendations of your colleagues or what is politically popular. In Vermont, where the governor and lieutenant governor are elected separately, this can be particularly difficult when the two leaders do not have a shared vision for the future of our state. Continue reading

VSEA announces unique mix of endorsements

The Vermont Employees’ Association announced Tuesday the following endorsements, which included Democratic candidate Cassandra Gekas for lieutenant governor, Republican candidate Vince Illuzzi for auditor, and Progressive Party candidate Ed Stanak for attorney general.

Other nominations included Democratic candidates Gov. Peter Shumlin, Secretary of State Jim Condos and state Treasurer Beth Pearce.

Pearce was appointed to the position but has significantly outraised her opponent, Wendy Wilton, the Rutland City treasurer.

VSEA President John Reese said in a news release members of the nonprofit labor union, which according to its website represents more than 8,000 state workers, will focus efforts on the governor’s race as well as the treasurer and attorney general races.

“Treasurer Beth Pearce has been a great friend to VSEA members, especially in her articulate and educated defense of state employees’ defined benefit pension plans,” said Reese. “Unlike her opponent, Treasurer Pearce understands the many pitfalls inherent in switching state employees from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan.”

Cassandra Gekas has added $8k

The Democrats’ 30-year-old candidate for lieutenent governor took in about $8,000 over the last month, bringing her haul for the cycle to about $15,000.

Gekas said she has an additional $27,000 or so in pledges, and that she expects the war chest grow at a faster clip after the passage of an Aug. 28 primary that has commanded most of Democrats’ attention this summer.

Gekas said she’ll be bringing on a paid fundraiser next week, which should also help bring in the dollars she’ll need to get her name in front of Vermonters. No word yet on Phil Scott’s latest numbers. The Republican incumbent had taken in about $31,000 as of mid-July.