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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Shumlin Says Health Exchange Making Solid Progress

The Shumlin Administration says it’s making solid progress in its effort to enroll as many as 65,000 Vermonters on the state’s new health care exchange by the end of this month.

State officials say the exchange is now working well for individuals seeking coverage but small businesses have to use other options to purchase their policies.

With a sign up deadline of Dec. 23 looming on the horizon for people who want to have coverage beginning in January, the Shumlin Administration is putting on a last minute publicity blitz to encourage individuals to enroll at the state’s new website.

On Thursday afternoon, Gov. Peter Shumlin released some preliminary enrollment numbers at a Statehouse news conference. He says roughly 15,000 individuals have signed up for coverage and  approximately 30,000 people who work for small businesses will have coverage using options that bypass the exchange.

Shumlin says more people have signed up in the past five days than in the previous five weeks.

“While it’s taking a little longer than we wished we’re going to get it done and I’m proud of the progress we’re making,” said Shumlin. “I’m encouraged by the number of folks who are signing up on a daily basis right now.”

"I am encouraged by the number of folks who are signing up on a daily basis right now" - Gov. Peter Shumlin

California's exchange, which also had a troubled start, is making similar strides, ProPublica reports.

And the governor wants individuals to understand that they have to sign up by Dec. 23 if they hope to receive a federal subsidy for coverage starting in January.

“The message today is pretty simple this is your chance if you’re an individual or family and you haven’t moved yet, move,” said Shumlin. “Because if you move by Dec. 23 it’s likely that you may well qualify for a subsidy and we can get you signed up and get you good health insurance coverage.”

The enrollment numbers also show that while individuals have been able to purchase coverage on the exchange, small businesses have not.  Because the on line payment system still doesn’t work, many small businesses have either purchased their coverage directly from Blue Cross or MVP or they’ve had their current policies extended for the first three months of 2014.

CGI is the lead contractor of the exchange and state officials say the failure of the on line payment system to work is the result of the company missing a number of key deadlines.  Shumlin isn’t sure when the on line payment system will work.

“We’re doing everything we know how to do to make that happen. As you know I’ve lost confidence in the contractor that promised to have us a perfectly humming website on October first. So we think we can do it we think we’re going to do it but I’ve stopped being surprised.”

The enrollment numbers also show that a majority of individuals who have signed up on the exchange qualify for a new expanded Medicaid program that offers comprehensive services at no cost.