State has set timetable for move to Health Exchange

VERMONT — As the state works toward establishing the Vermont Health Benefit Exchange, which will act as the central clearinghouse from which Vermont residents and businesses alike must purchase their primary health insurance, and beyond the Exchange a Vermont single-payer health care system, a number of key dates lie on the path.
Some dates have passed: In May 2011, the Vermont Legislature passed Act 48, which called for most of the major health care reforms, and a year later the Legisature passed H. 559, which made final plans for the Health Benefit Exchange.
This past spring, a tax credit was made available to many small businesses that provide health insurance to their employees, and this summer the new Green Mountain Care Board approved the “essential health benefits benchmark plan” that insurance firms must offer on the Exchange. That plan follows guidelines in the 2010 federal Affordable Care Act.
Milestones ahead, according to the Vermont Department of Vermont Health Access website, include:
•  January 2013: The Agency of Administration must submit a health care reform-financing plan to the Legislature. On Sept. 13 in a presentation at Middlebury’s Ilsley Library, Department of Vermont Health Access Commissioner Mark Larson said that plan would be sure to trigger some debate. Like any other funding proposal, Larson said, there will be “winners and losers” within it.
•  October 2013: Enrollment in the Exchange begins for Vermonters; Larson said the first year sign-up would probably run through March 2014.
At that point, according to the website, “small businesses (50 employees or fewer) and individuals/families who are not covered by their employer will now search for and select qualified health plans through the Exchange. Subsidies and tax credits will be available to help individuals and families afford insurance.”
•  January 2014: Exchange health coverage begins.
•  2017: This is the approximate target date for the changeover to a publicly financed single-payer system to replace the Exchange, to be called Green Mountain Care (see related story).
According to the website, “Vermont is on the path to accomplishing what no other state in the nation has even attempted: to create a system in which health care is treated as a right and not a privilege, costs are contained by finding efficiencies in the system and spending money more wisely, and health coverage follows the individual and isn’t tied to employment.”

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