Vermont expects first look at health insurance rates

Thursday March 28, 2013

MONTPELIER -- Vermonters should get their first glimpse of the cost of health insurance under the state's version of the federal health overhaul by early next week, state officials said Wednesday.

Gov. Peter Shumlin and his aides said that health insurers on Monday are to unveil their proposed rates for various levels of insurance to be offered under the exchange, which is being created under the Affordable Care Act.

Rates offered by Blue Cross Blue Shield and MVP Health will be reviewed by the Department of Financial Regulation before a final approval by the Green Mountain Care Board.

State officials said Vermont will be the first in the country to make the proposed rates known, an accomplishment that Robin Lunge, Shumlin's director of health care reform, called a "big milestone."

The exchange, to be known as Vermont Connect, is expected to be up and running by Oct. 1, and Vermonters who work in places with 50 or fewer employees will be invited to sign up for insurance coverage effective Jan. 1.

The announcement came as Shumlin offered a progress report at a news conference on the state's efforts to set up the exchange and move beyond it by 2017 toward a state-run, single-payer health care system, designed to ensure health coverage to all Vermonters.

The progress report also came with the announcement of a setback: Anya Rader Wallack, chairwoman of the Green Mountain Care Board, the five-member panel designing the single-payer plan, said she would leave that job at the end of September.

Wallack, a nationally recognized expert on health policy and cost containment, said she had hoped to persuade her family to move from Rhode Island to her native Vermont when Shumlin appointed her. She said she has not been able to do that, and has decided to move back to Rhode Island.

Shumlin said he hoped Wallack would continue to work with Vermont officials on a consulting basis. He also said he had asked another of the board's five members, Al Gobeille, to replace Wallack as chair.

Shumlin listed other developments in the state to stem health care costs and prepare for the overhaul:

-- More than 423,000 Vermonters -- about two-thirds of the state population -- now have their care managed by primary care practices under the state's Blueprint for Health.

-- Eighty-three percent of Vermont primary care doctors now have electronic health records, one of the highest rates in the country. Better management of medical information is widely seen as a key to reducing costs.

-- Vermont has the nation's only statewide "accountable care organization," a group of 13 hospitals that will see financial rewards from the federal Medicare program if they hold down costs.


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