MONTPELIER — The federal government has given a preliminary thumbs-up to an online health insurance marketplace set to go into effect in 2014.
The Shumlin administration announced Thursday that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services gave conditional approval to the “health benefit exchange” now under construction at the Department of Vermont Health Access.
The federal Affordable Care Act mandates that every state have a health insurance exchange in place by January of next year, but Vermont has pursued the program more vigorously than most.
The state has drawn down more than $100 million in federal grants to create the exchange, and legislation passed last year will require companies with 50 or fewer employees to purchase their insurance plans through it.
“Vermont continues to be a leader in health care reform, and this is another illustration of our progress toward meeting our reform goals,” Gov. Peter Shumlin said in a written statement. “We are building an exchange that works for Vermonters now and in the future.”
Likened to a sort of Hotwire.com for insurance plans, the exchange is designed to provide consumers an apples-to-apples price comparison of various plans. Proponents say it also ensures quality control by imposing minimum standards for plans sold in the exchange. Most individuals buying in the exchange will be eligible for premium assistance or tax credits from the federal government.
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