VT Health Deadline Looms Over Small Businesses

VT Health Deadline Looms Over Small Businesses

Monday small business owners offering coverage have to notify their insurer what they want to do or automatically be enrolled.

Growing concerned about problems with Vermont Health Connect, leaders at the Vermont Chamber of Commerce held a meeting with state lawmakers to ask for an extension of current health plans for small businesses and their employees.

VCC President Betsy Bishop and VP of Operations Shannon Wilson presented a report to Speaker of the House Shap Smith and Senate President Pro Tempore John Campbell outlining some of the difficulties they’ve had as navigators for Vermont Health Connect.

The main issue: The technology.

“We did try and use Health Connect to start everything up and weren’t having any luck with it,” Switchback Brewery owner Bill Cherry said.

Cherry says he tried early and often to pick a coverage plan for his staff but kept getting shut out of the website. Eventually he went straight to Blue Cross Blue Shield to enroll.

“We're all set up and ready to go,” Cherry said.

But he's among the minority according to Vermont Chamber of Commerce VP of Operations Shannon Wilson.

“We have only heard back from about five percent of our groups so far,” Wilson said.

Wilson stays busy opening paper applications since the Health Connect website has had issues. She’s now worried many small business owners won't make the Monday deadline.

Small business owners have the option to extend existing coverage for a little more than two months or they can choose a new plan. If they do nothing they'll be automatically enrolled in a plan most similar to the one they have now.

“It's hard to make that decision in such a short period of time,” Wilson said.

It’s why Wilson and Bishop presented their “Navigator Program Experience Report” to Smith and Campbell. The report points out the inability to make employee selections, issues IDing employees and their dependents and inaccurate information on premium prices for employees

“That is one of the issues in the upgrades that we made last night,” Vermont Health Access Commissioner Mark Larson said.

Larson says they're working fast to fix issues on the web but don't expect to change the Monday deadline for small businesses.

“We know that there are important choices Vermonters and Vermont small businesses need to make but we do expect that date will continue to be November 25th,” Larson said.

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