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VT Health Connect: Open Enrollment Nears End

If you haven't signed up yet for health insurance you have less than a week to do so before you could face a Federal penalty.
MILTON, Vt.- If you haven't signed up yet for health insurance you have less than a week to do so before you could face a Federal penalty.

Open enrollment through Vermont Health Connect ends Monday, March 31st. Even though Vermont Health Connect has been plagued with persistent problems since its launch, officials say as long as you are in the process of signing up by Monday, they'll make sure you are covered.

After her husband's job decided to not offer health insurance, Paula Bombard says she signed her family up for an insurance plan through Vermont Health Connect back in October.

“Come January 1st we were supposed to have insurance, but we received no cards, no nothing,” said Bombard.

After that Bombard says she's spent hours on the phone trying to straighten everything out.

I asked her to describe the process of signing up for insurance in one sentence: “Horrible, I could say it in one word, horrible,” said Bombard.

And Bombard is not alone.

“Now I'm not pretending that we didn't stumble and fumble on our way to the goal,” said Governor Peter Shumlin. “I’m going to stay on this one until we get it right.” 

Many Vermonters have encountered one problem or another since Vermont Health Connect launched last fall.  With the open enrollment deadline looming, Bombard is afraid because of those glitches she won't have coverage.

“I guess there could be a chance that we could get a penalty for doing what we are supposed to,” said Bombard.

But Deputy Commissioner of Vermont Health Connect Lindsey Tucker says that won't happen.

“We are working with all Vermonters who are in the pipeline who are in line, who maybe tried and maybe had a technical issues to make sure they can get coverage and can sign up,” said Tucker.

Tucker says the process has been smooth for some, but acknowledges some have experienced technical challenges along the way.

“That’s one of the reason that we're really encouraging Vermonters to come in today or tomorrow rather than waiting until the weekend or Monday,” said Tucker.

If you miss the Monday deadline you face a Federal penalty and that depends on how long you go without insurance. But it could be either 95 dollars or one percent of your income; whichever is greater.

So Bombard says she’s crossing her fingers that everything will be straightened out so she doesn't face a fine.

“So now we are at the point where we have to pay another month of insurance, not knowing if they are going to cash the check or not, and if we are going to have health insurance coverage or not,” said Bombard.

So far nearly 42 thousand Vermonters have signed up for insurance through Vermont Health Connect. In addition to that 34 thousand have signed up for Medicaid.

If you have what officials call a 'life qualifying event', for example you get married, have a child, or change jobs. Then you are able to enroll at any time.

But for everyone else, the deadline to sign up is Monday.

In case you miss that deadline the next open enrollment period begins in November.

Vermont Health Connect plans to extend calling hours at its help center this weekend through Monday to make sure everyone who wants to sign up, can.

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