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Two years late: Is Vermont Health Connect Finally Ready?

MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin had not even decided to run for the state’s top office when the federal Affordable Care Act was signed into law in March 2010, but the landmark legislation would soon begin to shape his governorship in ways he could not have imagined. Shumlin, who was sworn into office in January 2011, began his tenure as the state’s chief executive with a trademark swagger. Now as he approaches the end, having announced in June that he will not seek a fourth term, he is hoping to leave in place a working exchange that he has championed, but which has struggled for two years and one month to meet Vermonters’ expectations. The governor held a news conference Thursday to announce that the site should finally work today, Nov. 1, as the open enrollment period for 2016 health care plans begins. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin administration expects ‘smooth sailing’ for open enrollment

MONTPELIER — A state official overseeing Vermont Health Connect said he expects mostly “smooth sailing” when Vermonters begin renewing health care plans on a newly automated system Nov. 1. Chief of Health Care Reform Lawrence Miller informed lawmakers in a memo sent Monday that the state’s online health insurance marketplace is primed to begin automated policy renewals during the open enrollment period that begins on Sunday and ends Jan. 31. The memo is part of a monthly report to lawmakers about progress on the exchange. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin administration set to deploy new exchange function

MONTPELIER — State officials maintained cautious optimism throughout the summer that an automated enrollment process will be added to Vermont Health Connect by Thursday’s self-imposed deadline and are preparing to deploy it this weekend. Lawrence Miller, Gov. Peter Shumlin’s chief of health care reform, said officials expect the online health insurance marketplace to be taken offline Thursday night to allow the function to be deployed. The site is expected to remain offline through the weekend. Miller said the function has been in vigorous testing over the last several weeks and is on track to be deployed. The state’s contractor, Optum, has been testing code to ensure that it works for users when open enrollment begins on Nov. Continue Reading →

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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. Continue Reading →

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Audit: Exchange remains high risk despite improvements

MONTPELIER — The state has been paying for work that hasn’t been performed and is at a high risk of failing to meet pending key deadlines in the development of the state’s online health insurance exchange, according to a performance audit released Thursday by State Auditor Doug Hoffer. The audit also indicates growing unease by the state’s largest health insurance carrier, Blue Cross Blue Shield, over billing discrepancies amounting to millions of dollars in unpaid premiums on the company’s ledger. The myriad malfunctions and setbacks associated with Vermont Health Connect have been well-documented since its bungled launch in October 2013. Key automated functions expected to be part of the online marketplace remain absent, and small businesses must still enroll offline directly through insurance carriers. That is after nearly $200 million in federal funding has been spent by the state on planning, developing and implementing the exchange to meet requirements laid out in the federal Affordable Care Act. Continue Reading →

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