Shumlin Administration Says Health Exchange On Track

08/09/12 5:50PM By Bob Kinzel
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The Shumlin administration says it's on track to put the state's health care exchange in place in October of 2013.

The exchange, which is a key part of the federal Affordable Care Act, is where all individuals and small businesses will purchase their health insurance beginning in January of 2014.

States across the country are moving at very different speeds to put together their health care exchanges.

While some states are refusing to create an exchange, and in those cases the federal government will come in and set it up, other states like Vermont are moving ahead and meeting deadlines established by the Affordable Care Act.

Mark Larson is the commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access.

"I think that were making substantial progress towards that goal and I think at this point we continue to believe that we are ready, we will be ready on October 1st of 2013 for people to be able to access the exchange and begin shopping on it."

The exchange is designed to be a marketplace where consumers can compare common benefit packages offered by various insurance companies.

Robin Lunge is the state's Director of Health Care Reform. Her group has been comparing the benefit packages offered by Vermont's 3 major health insurance companies. She says she was surprised to learn that there's virtually no difference in benefit coverage among these companies.

"Because how many people here would have said the state employees plan was way richer than any MVP or Blue Cross plan? I think most people believed that so," said Lunge. "I don't think that was common knowledge and it was a surprise to me quite frankly."

Lunge says the biggest factor in determining the cost of a policy was how much financial exposure a consumer was willing to accept - the larger the exposure, the lower the cost of the policy.

"The differences in the Vermont insurance market are all around what's your deductible what's your co payment it's not around what's actually covered."

Commissioner Larsen says the state is seeking a new federal grant, in part, to help finance a major public education campaign to explain how the exchange will work.

"We are developing what we hope to be a comprehensive education and outreach campaign and it will be multi-faceted it won't be all one thing or another," said Larsen. "It will be a variety of strategies to engage Vermonters and provide hopefully clear information as well as to try an answer questions that come up."

Larson says he hopes to unveil the key components of the public education campaign in the next few weeks.

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