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With the details of Vermont health care exchange changing weekly if not more often, local towns and local brokers have scrambled to stay ahead, with varying results.
Vermont Health Connect, the state's health care exchange, is live, after delays, and while individuals can sign up, small businesses (and towns) can enroll but not yet get billed because the billing system is not working.
While some towns have opted to extend their 2013 health insurance plans for three months, others were able to enroll directly, either with or without a broker.
Broker Craig Eilers of Eilers Financial Services in Waitsfield said that it has been a very hectic and confusing transition for small business owners as well as towns because the rules and parameters keep changing.
"We touch it one time and think we're done, then it gets changed and we have to touch it again and we think we're done, but then it changes again. And I feel obligated to explain what the state is doing even though the changes are nothing I'm involved with," Eilers said.
He said people don't always welcome the messenger when an unwelcome message arrives.
Steve Shea, a broker with Paige and Campbell in Waitsfield, said that his company advised most of their groups to take the three-month extension of their current plan to buy some time to see if the system will become fully functional. Then with all the machinations of the health care exchange, Blue Cross Blue Shield and MVP both agreed to let groups sign up directly through the company for health exchange plans versus their 2013 plans.
Waitsfield did just that, enrolling its six employees into the exchange. The town is offering to pay for the exchange's platinum program at $582.76 a month for a single person. An employee who enrolls their spouse or partner pays 4 percent of the cost and those who enroll their families pay 18 percent of the cost. Waitsfield is also offering to cover up to $2,500 per employee in an HRA (health reserve account) for employees. HRA funds are used to cover the first $2,500 in expenses for employee out-of-pocket expenses. The maximum out-of-pocket expense for people on the platinum plan is $2,500 for a single person and $5,000 for a family.
In Fayston, the town has six employees enrolled in the health care exchange and is also covering the platinum plan with the town covering 85 percent of the premium cost and the employee covering 15 percent. The town is covering $2,000 in an HRA for a single person and $4,000 for a couple or family.
Warren is providing coverage for its 14 employees in the exchange and is also offering the platinum plan. Single employees pay 5 percent of the premium costs, couples pay 10 percent and families pay 15 percent.
Duxbury opted to extend its current 2013 coverage for its four employees and is offering a comparable Blue Cross Blue Shield platinum plan. Members of the Duxbury road crew pay 15 percent of their premiums and the town clerk pays 5 percent.
Moretown bypassed the health care exchange and enrolled its five employees directly with Blue Cross Blue Shield on a platinum plan. Moretown employees do not contribute to the premium for a single person but do contribute 50 percent of the premium for a spouse or family.