Health exchange deadline looms for Vt. businesses - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Health exchange deadline looms for Vt. businesses

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Bugs in Vermont's new online health insurance marketplace forced administrators to push back the enrollment deadline by three months. But businesses aren't getting a reprieve. By Monday, operators will need to decide if and how they'll offer insurance to employees.

"I have to sign up as the business. I've started the process, but I haven't finished it," said Lynn Vezina, who owns the Vermont Family Pharmacy in Burlington's New North End.

Vezina doesn't currently offer insurance, but will next year to avoid a per worker penalty; that means no subsidies for employees.

"None of the people that were interested would qualify for the subsidies, so it didn't affect them at all anyway," Vezina said.

Vezina says most who work for her get coverage through a spouse and expect that to continue.

But at People Making Good Public Relations, partners say strong health plans allow them to land premiere talent.

"At its very most elemental level, the plan that we have now-- there's no comparable plan on the exchange," said Ken Liatsos of PMG.

Liatsos says they'll likely extend their current coverage plan through January, then stop offering. That should allow about five of their 12 employees to cash in on government subsidies. The rest of the money the company would have spent, minus penalties, will be added to wages. At least that's the current plan.

"Every time I say I've figured it out, something changes," Liatsos said.

Those who currently offer coverage can choose to stop covering in January, extend current plans, or enroll in Vermont Health Connect. If business owners do nothing, carriers will automatically switch their future coverage to the most similar offering on the exchange.

Employers who choose to extend coverage of a current plan can transition to Vermont Health Connect at any time.

Administrators say automatically enrolling those who don't make a selection in Vermont Health Connect rather than extending current plans is ideal, as the move will translate into a full year of coverage rather than just a few months.

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