For decades, Vermonters have been striving toward better health care coverage, and along the way, many significant milestones have been met. Community-rating and insurance oversight protects Vermonters when they buy health insurance and guarantees that they are treated fairly by insurance companies. And, across the state, children and adults alike have had access to quality, affordable health care thanks to programs like Dr. Dynasaur, VHAP and Catamount Health. This fall, Vermont will be reaching another milestone, the establishment of the health insurance marketplace, Vermont Health Connect.
Vermont Health Connect will allow individuals, families and small businesses to compare and choose a health insurance plan that works best for them, their families and their budgets. In addition to making side-by-side comparisons of plans, Vermonters can find out if they're eligible for low-cost or free insurance or financial help to pay for health care, and enroll in a plan - all in one place.
The law that drives the establishment of Vermont Health Connect is not only changing the way we find and enroll in health care, it's making changes to improve our coverage, not just here in Vermont, but across the nation. The federal health care law, or the Affordable Care Act, is addressing many of the problems Vermonters face today.
Starting in 2014, you no longer can be denied health insurance coverage for a period of time because you have a pre-existing condition. For the dad who has kept his job to keep his daughter with endometriosis on the company's health care plan because he knew what it would cost if he left, he no longer has that worry. He will have the freedom to move jobs and explore new opportunities and his daughter will be guaranteed health insurance coverage, without a gap.
Children can also stay on their family health plans until the age of 26, allowing parents to support their young adult children as they get their footing in the world.
Families can also breathe a sigh of relief because preventative care has no cost. Whether it's not worrying about the cost of taking the kids for their annual check-up or catching mom's breast cancer early through the free mammogram, the change is going to be important.
Vermont Health Connect opens this October and the new marketplace will allow Vermonters to access financial help that will lower their monthly health insurance costs and, for many, the costs they pay out-of-pocket for medical services. Many more Vermonters will be newly eligible for Medicaid, a no-cost, quality public health plan.
Reaching another milestone means change, which is both scary and exciting, but there are a number of resources to help Vermonters and Vermont's small businesses. Information and tools are available online at www.vermonthealthconnect.gov, through a Vermont-based toll-free hotline (855-899-9600), and in-person through assisters around the State known as Navigators and brokers. Whether you would like information on-line, by phone, or in-person, there are people to help you find the plan that is right for you.
Your Health Connection is a bi-weekly column from the experts at Vermont Health Connect, which aims to inform and educate all Vermonters on the coming changes in our state's health care system.
Robin Lunge, from Brattleboro, is the Director of Health Care Reform in the Agency of Administration and is charged with coordinating and overseeing the state's health care reform efforts. Previously Lunge worked as an attorney for the Vermont Department of Banking, Insurance, Security and Health Care Administration. She also served as nonpartisan staff attorney at Vermont Legislative Council and provided drafting and staff support in health and human services issues to members of the Vermont Legislature. Prior to that Lunge worked for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington D.C. as a senior policy analyst on public benefits issues. Her areas of expertise are federal and state public benefit programs, health care and health care reform, and international trade policy. Lunge will oversee and coordinate health care reform efforts across state government. In addition, she will serve as liaison to the newly created Green Mountain Health Care Board which will be charged with designing and administering major components of the state's reform plan.