Vt. Health Access Commissioner Mark Larson announced Tuesday that the state's $80-million dollar insurance website won't be ready to handle small businesses in time.
Insurance company officials told legislators the system would need to be tested by late-January to guarantee coverage for April. Vermont Health Connect isn't willing to bet on its contractors, who have missed every deadline so far. Officials told businesses the only option to buy exchange-approved coverage is to skip the website and buy directly through Blue Cross or MVP.
"We believe that it is -- at this point -- a proven pathway. Many Vermonters have already done it. We also believe it provides the certainty and predictability that small businesses are looking for," Larson said.
Individuals will still be expected to sign up through Vermont Health Connect. Larson says the digital payment-system works but does not have certification yet. And until that arrives, customers will need to continue mailing checks.
"I mailed it at the Williston Post Office to a mailbox at the Williston Post Office. It took them a week to acknowledge they received it -- still hasn't cleared the bank," said Don Mersereau, who runs the UPS Store in Burlington. "At this point I don't have any written proof that I am actually covered."
Mersereau says he moved a scheduled cataract surgery from the beginning of January into February anticipating there could be issues when the coverage he picked through the exchange first started. But he didn't anticipate needing to reschedule surgery again. "I was at the point where I should've had some pre-op stuff done. Not having coverage, I just made the decision I had to cancel until I know for sure whether I would actually have coverage, so at the moment that's been put on hold," he said.
Mersereau says he had a plan selected by the 15th of December and waited until January 1 for a bill before he started seeking answers and realized his application had not been finalized.
Blue Cross Blue Shield says it's offering workaround coverage for those experiencing a gap, but Mersereau says he was told he will need to wait until February for his coverage to kick in.
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