Technical Problems Continue To Plague Vermont Health Connect

Jun 16, 2014

Technical issues continue to plague the operations of Vermont Health Connect, the state’s new health care exchange.

The online premium payment system for small businesses has never worked and now state officials say it won’t be ready until sometime next year.

Vermont is the only state in the country to mandate that all small businesses purchase their coverage on the state’s health care exchange. That’s why there was a lot of concern when the on line premium payment system for businesses wasn’t ready to go last October. Eight months later, it still doesn’t work.

Mark Larson is the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health Access. When the online payment system didn’t work last fall, the state allowed small businesses to purchase their coverage directly from the insurance companies.

Larson says this approach has worked well and he wants to extend this option into 2015.  He says this will allow Vermont Health Connect to put its major focus on ironing out problems with coverage for individuals.

"We want to prioritize making sure that we are doing the work required to make sure that individuals and families can be successful in open enrollment next year." - DVHA commissioner Mark Larson on the decision to delay the online premium payment system for small businesses until 2015

“Our decision is really that we want to prioritize making sure that we are doing the work required to make sure that individuals and families can be successful in open enrollment next year,” said Larson. “And know that small businesses have an option to access Vermont Health Connect plans.”

Betsy Bishop is the president of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. She thinks the decision to delay the online payment system for small businesses should be a warning sign to lawmakers that it’s a mistake to rush ahead with a single payer system in 2017.

“What I would like to see is policymakers take a breather on making changes,” said Bishop. “There’s been so much uncertainty, we have this new system that we still haven’t gotten to be functional yet before we then have to create yet another system and that’s of concern.”

Larson disagrees and he argues that the current problems with the exchange highlight the need for Vermont to move to a single payer system.

“Even though the Affordable Care Act is making progress for many Americans it still doesn’t get us to where we think we should be in making sure that every Vermont resident is covered and can have the security of coverage.”

Meanwhile, a new report highlights additional problems with exchanges around the country. It shows that 25 percent of individuals who have gotten subsidies when they bought policies on the exchange, may have to pay part of the subsidy back because they submitted inaccurate income information.

The report dealt only with those states where the federal government is running the exchange.

Larson says it’s not clear if the same trend is true in Vermont but he says the state does have a verification program in place to make certain that individuals get the appropriate subsidy.