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Vt. businesses crunch health coverage numbers again - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. businesses crunch health coverage numbers again

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

Betsy Bishop and staff at the Vermont Chamber of Commerce spent much of the year on the phone, convincing business operators to bring their insurance business to the state's online marketplace. But now, they're calling back to let them know the plans they picked won't be available Jan. 1 because of bugs and delays.

"And we're having a bit of trouble convincing people to come off their decision. They're saying to us now we want to stay with Vermont Health Connect, which is great but there's no way for that payment mechanism to work," Bishop said.

Bishop says complete numbers aren't available. But of the 3,500 formerly enrolled in the Chamber's health plan, 650 will need to rework offerings after Monday's announcement. There may be more; 40 percent of the plan holders did not respond to Chamber mailings. Along with commercial businesses, at least 40 municipal entities must crunch the coverage numbers again.

"It was those communities that had really stuck with the process all the way to the unfortunately now bitter end," said Steve Jeffrey of the Vt. League of Cities and Towns.

Jeffrey says some will pay more, others less by continuing their existing coverage. That's true for both the employer and the employee. He suggests reopening direct enrollment through carriers for Jan. 1 coverage, which closed last week prior to the announcement.

That option is still open to some but not all.

Chamber spokespeople want more-- the ability to keep current plans through the end of 2014. That would grant insurers, employers, employees, administrators, unions, and municipal entities time to sort out the rules without deadlines constantly looming.

The businesses affected by this are generally those that put substantial amounts of time and energy into making the Health Connect site work-- multiple hours a week as opposed to the hour a year Chamber officials say is typical.

I spoke with a municipal administrator Wednesday who told me she spent an hour waiting on hold to withdraw the town's application, allowing them to enroll in the desired plan through a carrier.

Business operators that chose to offer through Health Connect will have current plans extended for three months if they do nothing.

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