More than 52,000 have signed up for health care, state says

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More than 52,000 have signed up for health care, state says

Fri, 01/03/2014 - 5:40am -- tim

by Morgan True vtdigger.org Nearly 80 percent of Vermonters who the state estimated needed to sign up for health insurance before January 1 have picked a plan, according to the Shumlin administration.
But it’s unclear how many of the close to 23,000 people who signed up for individual or family coverage through the Vermont Health Connect website have had their applications processed. It’s also unknown how many of those whose applications were processed have made a payment as the January 7 payment deadline looms.
New applications and payments are constantly being processed, making it hard to pin down figures for either, Mark Larson, commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access, said Thursday.
An additional 29,200 people signed up for coverage through their employer thanks to changes made in November to the health care exchange rollout.
The remaining 13,000 of the 65,000 Vermonters who are required by state law to sign up fall into three categories ‘ individuals on private plans, individuals on VHAP or Catamount, and people receiving coverage through a small business employer whose plans have yet to expire.
The open enrollment period was extended for three months in November, giving people in any of those categories until March 31 to sign up for coverage.
‘Let’s all remember, while the clock does turn down (the night of Dec. 31) for folks who want to take advantage of federal subsidies for January, you can keep signing up for February and March, April, May,’ Gov. Peter Shumlin told reporters Monday, ‘so, obviously, we’ve got the year ahead.’
The most important thing for individuals who have already selected a plan and received an invoice is to make a payment before the Jan. 7 deadline, otherwise they won’t be eligible for coverage until February, Larson said.
‘We remain confident that Vermonters who get their coverage through a small business employer won’t experience a gap in coverage during the open enrollment through March,’ Larson said.
His department did not have figures for how many people who picked a plan through the exchange have been processed to this point, or how many of those who had have made a payment.
For individuals and families who have coverage that extends into 2014, the expiration of that coverage is considered a qualifying event, and they will have the opportunity to sign up before the 15th of the month in which their coverage expires in order to be covered for the following month.
Employers who have coverage that continues into 2014 will have an open enrollment period for employees 60 days prior to the expiration of their current plan.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont has signed up 14,000 Vermont workers directly through an employer, and almost all of them have policy numbers and insurance cards, said Kevin Goddard, vice president of internal affairs for Blue Cross.
The state’s largest insurer has also received 3,000 applications that were processed through the exchange, and many of those people have also received their policy numbers and insurance cards, Goddard said. Nearly 12,000 individuals signed up for plans with Blue Cross through the exchange, according to figures the company was given by the state, Goddard said.
Anyone who had Blue Cross insurance in 2013 is still in the company’s system, so if they’ve signed up for 2014, but go to the emergency room before the state processes them, they would still show up as insured, Goddard said.
A spokeswoman with MVP, the other insurance provider on the exchange, said in a statement that due to the November contingency options implemented by the state, the company could not provide an ‘accurate membership count.’
Larson did not know how many previously uninsured Vermonters had signed up through the exchange. That’s because the applications don’t ask what people’s coverage was before, he said.
Asked the same question about the number of uninsured Vermonters earlier this week, Shumlin responded, ‘If it’s gettable, we’ll get it.’
The state’s data on the uninsured typically comes from the annual household survey conducted by the Department of Financial Regulation, Larson said. That survey is typically conducted in the fall.
That means it could be as long as nine months before the state has figures on how many newly insured Vermonters there are as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
One of the main objectives of the state’s health care exchange is to improve Vermonters’ access to affordable medical insurance.
PHOTO: Governor Peter Shumlin and Department of Vermont Health Access Commissioner Mark Larson field questions about the state’s new health care exchange in Montpelier. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger