Deadline to extend current health plans is Nov. 25

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, appears with Gov. Peter Shumlin at news conference Nov. 1 announcing a delay in the state’s health care exchange mandate. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger

Vermont small businesses that want to extend their current health insurance plans through March 31 must notify their insurance providers by Nov. 25.

The state just informed Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont and MVP Health Care of this deadline, though it is not included in the commissioner of Financial Regulation’s order to allow the extension. The option to extend current coverage is one of three options the Shumlin administration is providing to businesses with 50 or fewer employees. These options are part of a contingency plan resulting from technical hang-ups plaguing the state’s new health insurance market, Vermont Health Connect.

Small businesses that want to provide coverage have two other options: buy plans directly from one of the two insurers — Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont and MVP Health Care — or make no decision and allow the insurer to choose a plan that most closely resembles the business’ current one. These businesses can also choose not to provide coverage and allow their employees to draw down subsidies, if they are income eligible.

Bill Little, vice president of MVP, said his company sent a letter to all of its small business subscribers telling them what plan most closely resembles their current one and how to go about extending plans or buying new ones. The company also fired off a “broker blast” to let insurance brokers know about the changes.

“They are the ones that typically do most of the transactions between the employer and the health plan,” Little said of the brokers, who he hopes can help facilitate this transition.

Andrea Cohen, director of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, said she expects businesses to respond very differently to the new options. Previously, the only option on the table was to buy plans from the website, but the payment mechanism still isn’t working.

“We’ve heard from businesses (that) they will do better on the exchange, and we’ve heard that some businesses are not going to do better on the exchange,” she said. “Those latter folks will likely wait and extend their plans.”

Betsy Bishop, president of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, is recommending to businesses that they buy Vermont Health Connect plans directly from insurers to ensure that they have coverage through the end of 2014. If businesses extend their current plans, they would be subject to new deadlines and create a risk of losing coverage.

“Our focus is to make sure that no one has a lapse in coverage for Jan. 1,” she said. “We are hoping the Vermont Health Connect system is working so that people can enroll in the way it was envisioned.”

If the site is not working by March, Cohen said, her organization does not support a further extension of current plans. She foresees legislators next session pushing to extend current plans for the duration of 2014, and she thinks it’s a bad idea.

With the option of buying plans directly from insurers, Cohen said, “there is no need” to extend plans. She said that for the market to work, it needs a large risk pool to even out costs.

“The exchange will increase transparency and level the playing field between businesses,” she said. ”That is fair and equitable for employers and employees. The exchanges offer more transparency about the cost of coverage to everyone. This has been a major failing of the status quo and needs to be cured in order to get true system reform.”

Andrew Stein

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14 Comments on "Deadline to extend current health plans is Nov. 25"


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sandra bettis
3 years 2 months ago

interesting look that mr scott is giving mr shumlin….

Jim Christiansen
3 years 2 months ago

Will the current plans be extended at current rates or is the Governor going to let the insurance companies charge what they wish without review from the GMCB?

Andrew, does the Governor or his incompetent administrator Mr. Larson have any idea the havoc this yo-yo ride of theirs is causing?

Wayne Andrews
3 years 2 months ago

More chaos ensues!

Stan Hopson
3 years 2 months ago
Andrew, does the Governor or his incompetent administrator Mr. Larson have any idea the havoc this yo-yo ride of theirs is causing? These are the same people that promoted an inoperable website hoisted on 100,000 Vermonters without doing the bare minimum of due-diligence. This is what we get with super majority one party rule, nothing in the way of substantial checks and balances, usually provided by a robust minority party or an aggressive press. We all DESERVE this debacle, we’ve elected and trusted these people OVERWHELMINGLY. We bought this lock, stock and barrel. Sure there’s lots of Bob Stannards out… Read more »
Craig Powers
3 years 2 months ago

Hours and hours of wasted time and money for both public and private parties involved in this fiasco. Bold face lies from the administration, misleading the public for months. Excuses from the administration’s political supporters that this is OK and acceptable all in the name of reform. A Governor who publicly disparages political opponents with disrespectful labels.

Vote these people out of office. They have failed.

Hilary Cooke
3 years 2 months ago

And Andrea Cohen at VBSR continues to recite the talking points…. reminds me of Nero with Rome burning.
I hope health care reform in Vermont can survive what are clearly examples of governmental malpractice. This winter the governor and legislature must come up with a way to fund this. Ideology doesn’t pay the bills, citizens do.
A final comment: Friends don’t let friends run the government. At least the Peter Principle is alive and well in Vermont.

3 years 2 months ago
The state of the Exchange website and the contingency options all present problems for employers that neither the administration nor, it appears, the insurers fully appreciate. In preparation for purchasing group sponsored coverage on the exchange an overwhelming majority of employers were unable to find a plan design that matched what they offer today. Suggesting that a plan with equal actuarial value is a plan that is equal in value to an employee is just not true. Plans with equal actuarial value can have very different design elements and depending upon an individual’s health scenario can mean a dramatically different… Read more »
Eric Taylor
3 years 2 months ago

Without calling anyone names, without shrill ideological rhetoric, you’ve captured the frustration faced by individuals and businesses alike. I hope there are people listening (watching) who will see these comments from you.

David Black
3 years 2 months ago

Your expression of the 1st amendment is impressive to say the leastb but you say too much and mean too little. You need to condense your thoughts and give others a chance to comment.

Annette Smith
3 years 2 months ago

You’ve got to be kidding! What is the reason for the 2 week notice and this new deadline? This is getting crazier, not simpler.

3 years 2 months ago

Is the sad picture accompanying this article a metaphor for the overall performance of the Shumlin administration ……..

or just a simple example of the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words in describing the state of healthcare reform in Vermont?

Dan Boardman
3 years 2 months ago

Bob Crews has hit the nail on the head in his response above. Well thought through, pragmatic and factual…..unlike what we’ve seen from the architects of the exchange.

Stan Hopson
3 years 2 months ago

Have Bob Crews run this debacle, at least we’d have someone competent involved.

David Black
3 years 2 months ago

Gov. Shumlin’s look, reminds me of the time “Big Bird” got caught eating too many poppy seeds.

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