Shumlin extends deadline for health care exchange

Gov. Peter Shumlin announces a delay in the implementation of the state's new health care exchange Thursday in Montpelier. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger

Gov. Peter Shumlin announces a delay in the implementation of the state’s new health care exchange Thursday in Montpelier. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger

A haggard Gov. Peter Shumlin on Thursday announced contingency plans, pushed back deadlines and apologized for delays and technical glitches associated with Vermont’s new health insurance market.

On Jan. 1, Vermont Health Connect was set to become the sole health insurance marketplace for roughly 100,000 Vermonters buying insurance independently or through businesses with 50 or fewer employees. But after the Web-based market got off to a rocky start and the payment mechanism failed a performance test Wednesday, Shumlin said it was time to give Vermonters the certainty that they would not experience a lapse in health care coverage due the state’s technical hurdles.

“I’ve got to be the one who takes responsibility for where we are, and charts a predictable course that doesn’t disrupt business and doesn’t disrupt individual Vermonters, who desperately need health insurance,” Shumlin said. “I apologize for the challenges we’ve been having.”

Under the governor’s back-up plan, small businesses can keep their current health insurance plans until March 31, which is the end of the federal open enrollment period for new plans. The health care reform bill Act 171 gives Shumlin’s commissioner of financial regulation the power to “extend coverage” of an existing plan, and Republican legislative leaders called on Shumlin to exercise that power last week.

“We’re very pleased with the governor’s announcement,” said Rep. Don Turner, R-Milton, the House minority leader. “On behalf of Vermonters we thank the governor for realizing there’s a lot more work to be done, and the safety net we worked hard on throughout the legislative process is going to be utilized, which will benefit Vermonters.”

Shumlin said small businesses could also buy one of the 18 plans directly from the two insurers selling on the market: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont and MVP Health Care. This is a measure Republicans and some business groups, such as the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, have fought for years to put into law.

“To see the governor essentially legislating from the administration is interesting,” Turner said. “It’s something we’re happy about and fully support going forward. We will fight for Vermonters’ right to buy outside the exchange.”

Shumlin said Vermonters earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, who are eligible for Medicaid, would be enrolled automatically in Medicaid unless they opt out.

Vermonters buying insurance independently have the option to extend their health insurance plans until March 31.

Don George, CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont, supported the decision to extend existing health care plans beyond Jan. 1. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger

Don George, CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont, supported the decision to extend existing health care plans beyond Jan. 1. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger

Shumlin said his team aims to enroll lower income working Vermonters, who are currently enrolled in the state-subsidized Catamount and VHAP programs, on new plans by Jan. 1. Those programs are set to end on Jan. 1, but Shumlin said the state would extend those programs until March 31 if his administration struggled to enroll these Vermonters in new plans.

Thousands of Vermonters enrolled in Catamount and VHAP will be eligible for Medicaid subsidies, but those earning between 138 percent and 300 percent of the federal poverty level must buy new plans. These Vermonters will be eligible for federal and state subsidies.

According to the administration, Vermonters who have enrolled in new plans on the market or who plan to enroll in new plans will be able to if they successfully get through the paper application process or the beleaguered website.

Shumlin did not say when the Vermont Health Connect site would be fully functional, but he said March 31 gave the state and its contractors more than enough time to get the market up and running.

Information technology giant CGI is building the federal insurance market as well as Vermont’s. It has fallen behind on many key deadlines built into the $84 million contract. Of that amount, the administration says the state has paid $18 million to CGI, and it reserves the right to penalize the vendor for failing to meet some of the contract’s conditions.

“The folks that we’re working with, the vendors we’ve engaged, have not delivered on the product that we were promised,” Shumlin said. “That makes me miserable, and I’m going to make sure that makes them miserable until we get it right.”

Shumlin’s top health care staff, Lt. Gov Phil Scott, Sen. President Pro Tem John Campbell and other legislative and state leaders stood by the governor as he unveiled the state’s next move.

Blue Cross CEO Don George and MVP Vice President Bill Little were also in attendance.

“We have heard the frustration that comes along with this change for Vermonters, and we have also heard their dissatisfaction,” George said. “All along, I have very much appreciated the state’s firm commitment and strong will to complete successfully what is really an enormously complex and huge undertaking with very short federal timelines that were afforded to it. And I really see today’s options that are being offered as a furtherance of that strong commitment.

“I think the options today are at the optimal time and are the optimal combination of choices to respond to Vermonters concerns that have been raised,” he said.

Andrew Stein

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58 Comments on "Shumlin extends deadline for health care exchange"

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David Black
2 years 6 months ago

The looks on these people are priceless.
Thanks for the laugh.

2 years 6 months ago

Yeah, within the second photo, that appears to be quite the glare Lt. Governor Phil Scott was putting on Governor Peter Shumlin.

Captions anyone!?

Larry Johnson
2 years 6 months ago

Caption for the second picture in the article. Phil Scott: Geez Peter! You’ve done it now! You’ve made people so mad over this health care thing that they expect me to run against you in the next election. That won’t leave me time to drive my race car or run my bulldozer. Peter Shumlin: For gawd’s sake Phil! Listen! Let me be clear! You couldn’t win that election if you were the only two people in it. Now go back to playing “Mike Rowe” and doing your “Dirty Jobs” thing and let me get back to putting more lipstick on… Read more »

2 years 6 months ago

Captions for Picture #2: Gov. Shumlin: This mess is all the Republican’s fault. I’ sticking with my “Ready, Fire, Aim” management system. Phil Scott: Can you believe it, Shummy took my parking spot again, I had to park at Shaw’s next to the dumpster. John Campbell: O’boy is this great, now Shap and I will be in charge. Sen. Ayre: If a woman were Governor we wouldn’t be here today. What’s worse, I’m late for my 10 o’clock hair appointment. BCBS CEO Don George: Unlike the state, we’ve got our job done. The cancellation notices were mailed yesterday. The People… Read more »

Cynthia Browning
2 years 6 months ago

I am so glad that the Administration has taken these actions. But if a less risky path had been chosen they would not have been necessary, and Vermonters who tried to work through VHC would not have essentially had hours and hours of productive time taken from them by a government mandate. Given all the uncertainties of the new systems, participation should have been voluntary and there should have been better backups and alternatives to the web site from the first. Common sense is being followed now, but it should have been followed sooner. Certainly the vendors bear responsibility, but… Read more »

Craig Powers
2 years 6 months ago

Thank you Rep. Brown for saying what needs to be said. The people making these poorly thought out decisions ought to spend some actual time trying to deal with their mandated changes! Has Gov Shumlin registered for his health coverage on VHC yet! Highly doubtful. I would LOVE to have back the seven brutal hours I have wasted dealing with the VT Health Connect and actually GETTING almost nothing accomplished. What a colossal waste of $$$ and time for all involved. It did not need to be this way did it? Those who think they know best really do not… Read more »

Joyce Wilson
2 years 6 months ago

How can individuals and small businesses with yearly deductible health insurance policies, extend coverage for only 3 months. People who renew their health insurance policies with a yearly deductible starting Jan 1st, should be able to stay on that policy until the end of the year, as renewing a yearly deductible policy for only a three month time frame makes no sense. This would be a good deal for the insurance companies but not so much for the policy holders.

Jeff Zweber
2 years 6 months ago

This is an excellent point. Does anyone have answers?

Fred Woogmaster
2 years 6 months ago

“Does anyone have answers?”

Before you become an ‘auditor’, Mr. Stein?

Bob Orleck
2 years 6 months ago

They should extend the coverage and delay implementation for a year and get us through the 2014 election season so we can hold them accountable. If they can delay until after the election it won’t make any difference because they will have accomplished their purpose. This is just a stall. Check out the voter registration provision in Obamacare. In the process the exchanges will be trying to register voters on-line unless stopped. That is what it is all about. I doubt if they ever intended to have a successful healthcare alternative in Obamacare. Remember the promises that you would be… Read more »

John Greenberg
2 years 6 months ago

Bob Orleck is right. Registering voters is an evil socialist plot and someone should put a stop to it immediately.

Chris Lewis
2 years 6 months ago

Thanks Bob. Very well said.

There are many long standing democrats who are questioning this Shumlin administration. Currently they see no checks and balances in Montpelier.

Thank goodness for VtDigger because for a while Vermont didn’t have any local news outlets willing to ask questions.

Bob Orleck
2 years 6 months ago

quote: “Thanks Bob. Very well said. There are many long standing democrats who are questioning this Shumlin administration. Currently they see no checks and balances in Montpelier.” Thanks Chris. I sure hope you are right about long standing Democrats waking up and rejecting Shumlin. When there is just one party in control there is dictatorial governance. My Dad was a Democrat, a union official and a real patriot. I knew my Dad and he would reject what is happening today with those who have co-opted his party. I know there are enough older well-meaning Democrats, who if they could just… Read more »

Doug Spaulding
2 years 6 months ago

Ending in a complete national single payer health insurance program. That is what Obama wants and this is his “planned” route to getting it.

Walter Carpenter
2 years 6 months ago

“Ending in a complete national single-payer health insurance program.”

Eoieve it or not, Doug, we already have one. It is Medicare. I know it is eveil to cover our senier citizens, but we already have a national single-payer program. Another one is the VA system.

If Obama had wanted a single-payer program he would not have settled for something like the ACA, which can best be described as “the private insurance self-preservation act.” The insurance companies love it.

Walter Carpenter
2 years 6 months ago

Believe it or not…Ach… Typos..

Patricia Crocker
2 years 6 months ago

Agree with you 100%

Kathy Callaghan
2 years 6 months ago

“A haggard Gov. Peter Shumlin” HE’s haggard?? I bet there are a lot of folks out there who have spent countless , hours, days, weeks trying to get into the system who are a lot more haggard than the Governor is!

After all, he doesn’t have to use the Exchange, unlike the 100,000 Vermonters who must because of a law that exists only in Vermont.

I bet there will be a lot more “haggard” readers writing in on this one!

Walter Carpenter
2 years 6 months ago

Just one more reason that we need to put these exchanges behind us and move to single payer.

Craig Powers
2 years 6 months ago

Yes Walter…can’t wait!

If the State cannot even get a website functioning in three years time, they should be able to do a bang up job administering over 600K people’s health care in 2017. Keep dreaming.

Do you remember a few months ago when Gov. Shumlin, Robin Lunge and Mark Larson told bold faced lies that everything was ready to go with VHC? Are you seriously that gullible that you will believe any politician about single payer being ready in 2017?

Lee Russ
2 years 6 months ago

Actually, the universal care plan gets rid of much of the very complexity that makes the exchanges bog down. And in what sense is the state going to be “administering” the universal care plan? A real universal care system doesn’t require a lot of “administering.” If you really are concerned about the workability of health care reform, not just following a political/philosophical agenda, I recommend taking an hour of your time to watch the online video version of a presentation that Canadian Professor Antonia Maioni gave at Lyndon State College in 2011: http://www.cctv.org/watch-tv/programs/antonia-maioni-canadian-health-care-system About half way through she describes the… Read more »

Craig Powers
2 years 6 months ago

I might have time to watch it if I was not screwing around and wasting hours of my time with your political/philosophical mandate that I buy my coverage via exchanges and ultimately be enrolled against my will in single payer. I had a great health plan that is being cancelled because of your political/philosophical meddling.

Lee Russ
2 years 6 months ago

Yet you have time for all these comments on Digger?

And the ACA is not, by the way, “my” philosophical mandate. You’ve probably noticed that I’m an advocate for the universal care plan slated to be implemented in 2017. That plan is extremely–extremely–different than the ACA.

Craig Powers
2 years 6 months ago

Difference is I can chose to make my comments on Digger whereas I am mandated, by law, to buy NEW coverage via a broken exchange. Pretty big difference, wouldn’t you say? Yes, I have seen your letters in the papers and understand that you are for single payer. My point is that we are no where near single payer and what Montpelier has done so far is a complete mess and a waste of money. I am sorry that I cannot see forward enough (as you have) to make the same determination that single payer will be much better. You… Read more »

David Dempsey
2 years 6 months ago

Lee, it would be great if a universal health plan in Vermont would be less complex than administering the exchanges. But it won’t be unless it is done at the federal level. If you break your leg visiting another state and you have Blue Cross/Blue Shield the hosptital will accept your coverage and bill them. This is because BC/BS has negotiated contracts with other states that guarantee that the hospital you go to will accept your insurance. Conversely, if you break your leg in White River and you go to Darmouth Hitchcock, they could tell you that they don’t accept… Read more »

Patricia Crocker
2 years 6 months ago

And perhaps while you are at it, you should all watch this trailer about a movie about the wonderful Canadian System. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnqkIWwWDsg

Bob Orleck
2 years 6 months ago

Quote from Lee Russ: “Actually, the universal care plan gets rid of much of the very complexity that makes the exchanges bog down. And in what sense is the state going to be “administering” the universal care plan? A real universal care system doesn’t require a lot of “administering.” Lee, let me understand. When the legislature breathes life into the single-payer system it becomes capable of making decisions and processing participants and claims automatically without much administering. I could be for that except I cannot believe in fairy tales. Behind it all will be countless and unnumbered life-long government elves… Read more »

Walter Carpenter
2 years 6 months ago

“Yes Walter…can’t wait!”

Neither can I.

The state has done a reasonably good job with Catmount/vhap, Medicaid, and the other health care programs it administers. They could do it with single-payer. These exchanges are a far different animal than single-payer. I am not exactly in favor of them, though they do some things which this nation badly needs. I also think that Vt. would have been better off if they had not shipped the computer job out to a private company and just used our own computer people to set this up.

Patricia Crocker
2 years 6 months ago

Right on Craig! Our state government botched up big time. All the more reason to trust them to an even greater reponsibility? Our bodies our choice? (eye roll). The thought of these people being in charge of the sanctity of our health and our bodies is frightening.

Doug Spaulding
2 years 6 months ago

Walter – have you ever banged right into the Governor? I ask that because your every comment on VT Digger is in direct defense of the good governor, regardless of what it might be that he says or does. You might want to be a little careful though because lemmings have been known to follow their leaders right over a cliff and into oblivion…

Walter Carpenter
2 years 6 months ago

“You might want to be a little careful though because lemmings have been known to follow their leaders right over a cliff and into oblivion…”

Yes, and I see you following your leaders right off that cliff and into oblivion. As for my comments supporting the guv, I do support single-payer; as far as I know the guv supports it too. If that is banging into the guv, then, well, I have banged into the guv.

Lee Russ
2 years 6 months ago

How is advocating for universal, publicly funded health care a “direct defense” of the Governor?

I also advocate the need for a universal care system just as soon as we can get it. I support the Governor’s position on that issue, obviously.

On other issues….depends on the issue and what the Governor’s position is.

Chris Lewis
2 years 6 months ago

I see this as one more reason that we need to get government out of healthcare.

Walter Carpenter
2 years 6 months ago

“I see this as one more reason that we need to get government out of healthcare.”

And then what will happen? Higher prices, more priced out of health insurance, more junk policies which are useless but which make insurers much money. Get private insurance out of health care.

Chris Lewis
2 years 6 months ago

That’s what has already happened with government involvement. The cost have sky rocketed, the high deductible “junk policies” are the core of the offerings in the Vermont Exchange and more people will not be able to afford healthcare.

So after all the promises of lower costs, more insured, we have this disaster.

If you believe the premise that single payer will take care of this, I have some property in Florida to sell you. Heck, I am sure we can get Shumlins lawyer to close the deal.

Walter Carpenter
2 years 5 months ago

“The cost have sky rocketed, the high deductible “junk policies” are the core of the offerings in the Vermont Exchange and more people will not be able to afford healthcare.” Please tell me how these “junk policies” are the same as the junk ones which the insurers put out there before the ACA. And then please tell how the government involvement has made them worse than before. Now, I am no fan of these ACA’s, as agree that many will not be able to afford them, especially those out bounds of the income eligibility limits for subsidies. But these “junk… Read more »

Dave Bellini
2 years 6 months ago

The real story is how expensive the exchange plans are because of the high out of pocket costs. Vermont should leave Catamount and VHAP in place. These are better plans for low/moderate income Vermonters. Vermonters who will be expelled from VHAP and Catamount then, thrown into the exchange will be stuck with plans that make going to the doctor unaffordable. Who has $2000 – $10,000 kicking around to use for first dollar medical expenses?? The folks in Catamount and VHAP??? What’s the point of having health insurance plans that make getting medical care too expensive? It’s stupid.

Walter Carpenter
2 years 6 months ago

“The real story is how expensive the exchange plans are because of the high out of pocket costs. Vermont should leave Catamount and VHAP in place. ”

I agree with you Dave. I think Cat/vhap should have been left in place, if possible.

Hunt Melville
2 years 6 months ago

What’s funny is how many times he says ‘bipartisan’. When the going gets tough, the losers look for cover.

Chris Lewis
2 years 6 months ago

Or move to Rhode Island…

2 years 6 months ago

Vermont’s financial management and IT history continues to be less than stellar; last December the Dept of Motor Vehicles contract with HP was settled a due to a flawed computer system. In this issue of vtdigger in addition to the Exchange computer problems with an 84 million dollar price tag there are articles regarding a deficit of $56 million in 2015 along with the state under budgeting the bio mass plant by $6 miliion, a 3 million adjustment in February and another 3 million now. No wonder we have such a high tax burden-lwho will be held responsible?

Guy Page
2 years 6 months ago

He made another important announcement at this press conference: that General Fund $$ would not go for economic recovery efforts in Windham County as a consequence of the Vermont Yankee closing. Development officials there asked nicely at Monday’s hearing in Vernon; instead the governor said that any money for that purpose will have to come directly from Vermont Yankee.

Duncan Kilmartin
2 years 6 months ago

Bottom line: if they can’t get this right the first time on time, what is going to happen when someone needs approval for an emergency operation to save their life?

Wonder if they are going to create an accountability system that will account for the deaths that come from “not getting it right the first time on time”.

Can’t wait to see that system!

Walter Carpenter
2 years 6 months ago

“when someone needs approval for an emergency operation to save their life?”

Having been through this before, I can say that you should never need approval for an operation to save your life.

Jim Christiansen
2 years 6 months ago

Shumlin said. “I apologize for the challenges we’ve been having.”

These are not challenges. Vermont health Connect is…

Not on time.
Not on budget.
Not working for Vermonters.

Vermont Health Connect is currently a failure because our Legislature and Governor decided Vermont would be the only State in the nation to mandate individual and small business purchase through the exchange, without exception.

This can and most likely will be fixed in the coming year, but at a terrible cost to Vermonters, all for Legislative hubris.

Walter Carpenter
2 years 6 months ago

“Vermont Health Connect is currently a failure because our Legislature and Governor decided Vermont would be the only State in the nation to mandate individual and small business purchase through the exchange, without exception.”

Are you sure that this is the only reason that the connect is having its start-up gaffs, gaffs as opposed to being a complete failure since it has not yet been instituted.

Robert Joseph
2 years 6 months ago

Not sure why he even balked at this. Especially after the Feds decided to extend the deadline last week.

rosemarie jackowski
2 years 6 months ago

Health care??? Still no explanation about how an ER ‘lost’ a patient.

From The Burlington Free Press
“…Monday, the hospital announced that a state investigation determined hospital policies weren’t followed after a patient arrived complaining of back pain. Following an initial assessment by nurses, the patient was found dead by a non-clinical staff member. The staffer notified the two nurses who initially cared for the patient, but neither responded…”.

There is an urgent need for Patient Advocates who are NOT in the chain of command of the hospital. Anyone who goes to the ER alone is at risk.

Todd Taylor
2 years 6 months ago

Sounds like the VA; any given month one can find news on a series of preventable deaths that have occurred at VA facilities nationwide. Their own Inspector General has attributed many of the deaths to improper care, poor medical practice or bad procedures, but the administrators of those facilities continue to get absurd 5-figure bonuses year after year.

rosemarie jackowski
2 years 6 months ago

It was not the VA this time. It was the Bennington Hospital.

Doug Spaulding
2 years 6 months ago

This is just another apology in a long list of others we have already heard this week. A real predictable course would start with this apology and end in the big trash can under his desk. Come March 31st we will undoubtedly hear another. The photo is reminiscent of LBJ’s swearing in on Air Force One 40 years ago this month.

rosemarie jackowski
2 years 6 months ago
Walter Carpenter
2 years 6 months ago

I have heard of the ACA described as the “Private insurance self-preservation act.” No wonder the private insurance industry loves it.

Timothy MacLam
2 years 6 months ago

I call it the “No Insurance Company Left Behind.”

Walter Carpenter
2 years 6 months ago

“I call it the “No Insurance Company Left Behind.”

LOLOL, Tim. Good call. I agree with you.

Stan Hopson
2 years 6 months ago

Face plant.

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