News Releases

November 29, 2016

Vermont Health Connect Open Enrollment Proceeds Smoothly; Obamacare Integral to Vermonters

Gov. Peter Shumlin today provided an update on Vermont Health Connect open enrollment and highlighted how Obamacare has provided critical health care and financial security to previously uninsured Vermonters. President-elect Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans, who control both the House and the Senate, have promised to repeal Obamacare.

As open enrollment on Vermont Health Connect enters its second month, the annual process of re-enrolling existing customers and enrolling new Vermonters is going smoothly. More than 20,000 households have been renewed into 2017 health and dental plans and will receive their first 2017 invoice next week. In addition, about 1,000 new applicant households have received an eligibility determination and will be effectuated into 2017 coverage once they pay their first bill.

The State's health insurance marketplace fully expects to meet its goal of ensuring that all customers can use their 2017 health insurance starting on January 1st. In fact, Vermont Health Connect is on pace to meet the target weeks in advance.

The first step in the renewal process involved updating the State's system with information from customers, insurance carriers and the federal hub to ensure that customers were mapped to the appropriate 2017 health plans and given state and federal subsidies based on 2017 eligibility thresholds. This step was completed in October. More than 90 percent of renewals were successfully processed through an automated file. The remainder were completed in the following days through a staff renewal form. This performance was three weeks ahead of target. It was also more than three months ahead of last year, the first year the marketplace used the automated renewal process.

The second step involved sending the files to the insurance carriers - Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont, MVP Healthcare, and Northeast Delta Dental - and then receiving confirmation that the customers have been effectuated into active coverage. Vermont Health Connect initiated this step during the weekend before Thanksgiving and the results have been very positive. Of nearly 21,000 cases sent to carriers, only 288 have yet to be confirmed as effectuated into active coverage. Only 51 cases, or about one-quarter of one percent, were in error status as of November 28th. These cases are being evaluated and are expected to be resolved in the coming days. This year's performance greatly exceeds last year's, when just over 13,000 households were effectuated by the end of November.

Vermont Health Connect's ability to process customers' change requests, also known as Change of Circumstance (COC), has been a major focus since the marketplace's launch. The goal is for changes that are requested by the 15th of a month to be reflected on the following month's invoice. Last month, 95 percent of requested changes met this target, up from 54 percent at the beginning of the year. Last week, 80 percent of requested changes were completed on the same day as the request.

Vermont Health Connect's website continues to meet performance targets for load time and availability, while customers who prefer to use the phone have also encountered prompt service. Nine out of ten (89 percent) calls to the Customer Support Center have been answered within 24 seconds, well above both the 75 percent target and the 59 percent achieved during the first four weeks of open enrollment last year.

"I'm extremely proud of the team at Vermont Health Connect for ensuring a smooth open enrollment process for Vermonters," Gov. Shumlin said. "Vermont Health Connect is functioning as it should, and the result is Vermonters being able to easily access important health care coverage for themselves and their families."

Gov. Shumlin recounted the story of Lyle St. Jean of Ferrisburgh who enrolled in coverage with his wife this spring. St. Jean initially misinterpreted a question on the application, which resulted in a determination that he did not qualify for financial help. He then called Vermont Health Connect's Customer Support Center and talked to a representative who reviewed the application questions and confirmed the answers.

"Within a couple of hours I received a return phone call and everything was fixed, perfectly," St. Jean said. "The bottom line is my wife and I joined up exactly when we needed to, with the plan we wanted, and the subsidies were put in place. Direct payments were established with a simple phone call. I do monitor my account via the website, and will add that the site is very user friendly."

Amid Congressional Republican calls for repeal of Obamacare, the Governor today also stressed just how integral the law is to tens of thousands of Vermonters who now have health insurance because of it.

Before Obamacare, about 43,000 Vermonters lacked insurance coverage. Since the implementation of the law, that number has been cut by more than half, with over 25,000 Vermonters gaining coverage, which has reduced the state's uninsured rate to an estimated 2.7 percent. Vermont has the lowest uninsured rate in the nation for children, and is second only to Massachusetts for the lowest rate overall.

In addition to greatly expanding insurance coverage in Vermont, Obamacare has helped tens of thousands of Vermonters afford health care with federal and state subsidies. Three out of four (77 percent) Vermonters who purchase insurance through Vermont Health Connect receive federal subsidies to make insurance more affordable. That equates to more than 20,000 people who are at risk of losing financial help if Obamacare is repealed.

In addition, 130,000 adults and children receive health coverage through Vermont Health Connect's income-based Medicaid and Dr. Dynasaur programs. It is too early to predict what changes in Washington might mean for these Vermont families.

"To put it simply, it would be an absolute disaster if President-elect Trump and Republicans in Congress followed through on their threats to repeal Obamacare," Gov. Shumlin said. "Because of this law, 25,000 Vermonters who didn't have health insurance now do and thousands of others are receiving financial help, without which they might not be able to afford coverage."

Gov. Shumlin referred to Danielle LaFleur Brooks and Susan Hand of Montpelier as an example of how Obamacare has been essential to giving people an alternative to employer-sponsored insurance. It ensures that Vermonters can have the peace of mind that comes with continuous health coverage regardless of employment changes or other life changes.

"The healthcare needs of our family of four have been met in a way that we can afford," said LaFleur Brooks. "During a time when we had changing medical needs and income, we were able to make changes to our plan in a timely manner. The program has truly been live-saving for us."

Source: Office of the Governor
Last Updated at: November 29, 2016 12:57:17