Just one week ago, Vermont Health Connect opened its doors (figuratively speaking) for business. Vermont Health Connect is a web-based insurance marketplace that can also be accessed by phone or through in-person help. The new insurance marketplace is a product of the federal health care law, "Obamacare", supporting state laws and a lot of hard work on the part of Vermonters. All of this effort makes purchasing health insurance easier to understand and puts greater choice in the hands of individuals and small businesses. Health insurance is often confusing and too expensive, issues that recent health reforms aim to improve.

Through Vermont Health Connect anyone under 65 who does not have insurance through a job and small business employees will be able to compare plans side-by-side and pick a plan that reflects their needs and budget.* All of the plans offer similar quality benefits, so there is no guesswork about what's built-in. Plans even include dental and vision coverage for kids up to 21 and free preventative care. As an added bonus, close to 50,000 Vermonters who do not have insurance through a job will be eligible for a reduced-cost health plan. Many more will be eligible for a public health plan called Medicaid that comes at no cost. And Vermont's children from low-income families will still be eligible for Dr. Dynasaur, the state's public health plan that has served close to 70,000 children for years.

These reforms are the first steps in remaking a health care system that has been broken for decades. While we're working hard to make progress and change the status quo, opponents of reform are trying to derail reform efforts with misinformation and negative reports about Vermont Health Connect. But the truth of the matter is that, Vermont Health Connect is working. Don't get me wrong, at this point the system is not without flaws, but it is on the improvement fast track. There has been slowness and some have had trouble logging on, both of which have improved greatly since day 1. Despite it all, tens of thousands of Vermonters have shown interest by logging on and hundreds have already signed up for coverage. And we continue to make the website faster and the consumer experience better with each day that passes.

Vermont Health Connect is about taking the federal reform and adapting it to meet the needs of Vermonters. We will not rest until the Vermont Health Connect system serves Vermonters to the best of its ability. And we will continue on our path toward a more sensible, affordable system that provides all Vermonters will quality health coverage, regardless of employment status.

For more information visit www.VermontHealthConnect.gov.

*Vermonters over 65 are eligible for Medicare, and signing up for Medicare has not changed.

Robin Lunge, from Brattleboro, VT, 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.