After a failed test, the Shumlin Administration is now unveiling alternatives for the health exchange site.
Thursday afternoon state administrators hedged their bets on the readiness of Vermont's online health insurance exchange. A test of the bug-flawed system late Wednesday night revealed the expected fixes for major flaws failed.
"We need to add some additional options to ensure that Vermonters have no fear that they will lose coverage if they can't find a way to navigate the system before the January first deadline," Gov. Shumlin said.
Administrators expected 70,000 Vermonters to sign up for coverage through the exchange by the beginning of next year and 100,000 in total by the end.
The new options unveiled Thursday allow individuals to extend their current coverage until March 31. Small employers can take their business directly to insurance carriers rather than buying online. Insurance company spokespeople welcomed the news after warning administrators in August they hadn't allotted enough time for a proper rollout. "I think we've got the right folks on the job and given the timeline I think this gives everybody a little more breathing room," said Bill Little with MVP
"This is the right move and Vermonters deserve this," said House Republican Minority Leader Don Turner. He said his caucus called on the Governor to implement contingencies and he says he's thankful for Thursday's action.
Prominent health care reform opponent Darcie Johnston agrees, but says more can be done. "Vermont is the only state where individuals and small businesses -- 50 employers or under -- are under a mandate to buy on the exchange, that is something we should get rid of," she said.
Governor Shumlin says despite making the plans available he still has faith the system will be operational, though he couldn't say how quickly that may happen. "I can't tell you how deeply grateful I am to Vermonters for their patience -- and we will get this right," Shumlin said.
The state contract calls for spending $82 million in federal funds on the website that doesn't work -- $18 million has been paid out to the contractor. Missed deadlines mean the state can recoup funds, which Governor Shumlin says the state will do once the site is operational.
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