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Pandemic relief to provide $25M in Vt. health insurance subsidies

Published: Aug. 12, 2021 at 5:43 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Upwards of $25 million in American Rescue Plan funding is coming to help bring down the cost of health insurance for up to 50,000 Vermonters.

Ask just about anyone and they’ll tell you the cost of health care is through the roof, especially monthly premiums on health insurance.

“As an elderly person, if something happened to me or my husband, I’m not sure how we would deal,” said Kathleen Pelletier of Berlin.

Under the plan, about 25,000 people who buy insurance through Vermont Health Connect, the state’s online marketplace for insurance coverage are eligible for help on their premiums, thanks to higher income eligibility thresholds. People who sign up directly with their insurance companies (Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont and MVP Health Care) may also qualify if they transfer their plan into the marketplace. State leaders say the benefits passed by Congress do three things:

Give Vermonters who already receive subsidies to get more, allow anyone who claimed unemployment benefits this year to be eligible, and raises the cap on the number of people who can receive benefits

In the past, a Vermonter earning $55,000 was not eligible for help and the state’s cheapest plan would have cost $491 a month. Now, that same plan would cost just $211.

“That’s a significant amount. Over the course of these next five months, they will be saving a couple thousand dollars for the average person who was paying full price,” said Sean Sheehan with the Department of Vermont Health Access.

And for some, depending on income level, the subsidies will make insurance free.

“The tax credits can lower their monthly premium down to zero. That’s been huge for people as well. I mean, tear-inducing,” said Samantha Ball with Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center in Windsor.

To access the subsidies, Health Connect members will need to enroll online. Those who don’t do anything will still get the benefit as a tax credit next winter.

The American Rescue Plan also makes tens of millions of dollars available to some 20,000 uninsured Vermonters if they signup for Vermont Health Connect. So far, around 2,000 Vermonters have reached out to the state.

The enhanced benefits only last until the end of next year, though Vermont’s congressional delegation is pushing to extend them further. And for current enrollees who want to switch their plans altogether, Friday is the deadline.

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