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Vt. employers wrestle with health insurance change - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. employers wrestle with health insurance change

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

Oct. 1 Vermont's new, health insurance marketplace is set to go online. More than 100,000 Vermonters are expected to find coverage through the exchange, about 15,000 for the first time.

"Portability is a question I was just about to go ask-- if somebody leaves my employ after they've signed up," said Bob Paolini of the Vermont State Bar.

Most navigating or guiding others through the system are asking more complicated inquiries as the deadline draws near. Others are still waiting for complicated answers to simple questions, like will costs finally stop rising?

"I am curious to find out about that or are we going to be hit with a 5, 10, 15 percent increase?" said Cindy Locke of the Lamoille Region Chamber of Commerce.

The state's online system must interact with those of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont, MVP Health Care and supplemental offerings from Delta Dental.

"With all the great work that's gone on, it's difficult for us to talk yet about successful implementation of Vermont Health Connect," said Kevin Goddard, the vice president of external affairs at Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Insurers like Blue Cross say the Oct. 1 start date offers only a limited window for testing, much shorter than is typical in the private sector. They worry that if substantial flaws are found fixes may take time and add to complication.

"I can assure you we will be ready; we're on track," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.

"If there are glitches in the system we have a team prepared to fix them very quickly," said Mark Larson, the commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access.

The governor and Larson say there may be hiccups, but downplay deadline doubts. Along with the computers, 300 people are trained to be navigators to help the public and businesses sift through questions. But some say that's not enough; others worry that despite a range of plans, certain businesses won't have a good option.

"The situation I'm running into over and over is the business with the higher paid and the lower paid and not a lot in the middle," said Susan Klein, the director of the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Vermonters for Health Care Freedom spokesperson Darcie Johnston says she still hears different answers to similar questions, and worries that if the details aren't clear, neither will be the decisions for individuals and businesses.

"They're small things, but they matter and they matter to how businesses are going to determine if they can afford to do this,' Johnston said.

Shumlin says he still believes the exchange will lead to single-payer system in 2017, but only if costs are contained.

Click here for more on Vermont Health Connect.

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