Vermont Health Connect user accounts will be offline through the weekend to get systems up and running that the health care exchange has lacked since it launched in October 2013.
The weekend changes are expected to upgrade a “change of circumstance” function so that health plans are updated to reflect life changes – such as a new family member, new job or change in marital status – more quickly.
Since the exchange went online, Vermonters with these changes in their lives have had to use a call center to make these changes and have been unable to do so online. Gov. Peter Shumlin said in March that Vermont will abandon its efforts to run a state-based health care exchange if problems like the change of circumstance issue weren't fixed by a series of deadlines this summer.
With the weekend downtime, officials hope to upgrade change of circumstance functionality so that employees can reduce the months-long backlog of changes that have not been passed through to health insurers. Some customers are getting bills that don't reflect a change of circumstance months after they report the change to Vermont Health Connect. The goal of the upgrade is to make it so that – once the backlog clears – Vermonters' changes will be reflected on the next bill after they're reported.
The timing of the upgrade could cause problems for some people who face paying a fee for not having health insurance last year. Those Vermonters have until May 31 to apply and select a plan, the state said in a news release.
“Vermont Health Connect will work with any of these last-minute applicants who call during the downtime – along with any other Vermonters who call to report a qualifying event that impacts their health insurance needs – to get coverage after the system comes back up,” the release said.
The release provided a link to this FAQ page to help people better understand the upgrade.
Correction 5/29 12:03 p.m. A previous version of this story said the upgrades would allow users to enter changes online. That functionality is expected to come later this year. The current upgrade is expected to make it faster for employees to make the changes, but will not allow users to do so.