• For many, enrollment extension ends today
    November 25,2013

    Today is “D-Day” for Vermont health care.

    Through the fog and confusion, small businesses need to understand one simple truth. Enrollment extensions must be requested, and today is the last day carriers are bound to honor such requests.

    Despite the media focus on health care enrollment’s “three month extension,” for thousands of small businesses, that extension ends today — 25 days following the governor’s announcement unless an extension is actually requested by the business.

    The administrative order implementing the governor’s announced extension includes a provision that orders carriers offering group insurance to small businesses to enroll those businesses in the most closely matching 2014 plan unless they specifically request an extension.

    Carriers and the state ultimately chose Nov. 25 as the final day for extension requests. Businesses that want an extension have only a few more hours to contact their carrier to request one. Businesses insured by Blue Cross Blue Shield through VACE Insurance, the state’s largest small business group, should contact the VACE office at 229-2231 or vacehealth@vtchamber.com.

    Tomorrow morning Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont and MVP Healthcare will begin automatically enrolling thousands of small businesses and their employees in new 2014 plans effective Jan. 1, 2014.

    For many, perhaps most, that will be the best outcome, even for some who object because they believe they were entitled to more time. Blue Cross Blue Shield and MVP are certainly qualified to make the plan comparisons, and they want their customers happy with the selections.

    Some businesses that had already decided on other plans, but didn’t realize a deadline had come and gone, may be extremely unhappy. Hopefully, carriers will work with them to find a mutually comfortable resolution.

    Requesting an extension keeps all options open a bit longer – not three months, but for at least another month. Businesses can ask for an extension and stay on their current plan for January while exploring and pursuing other options in December. Old-fashioned paper enrollment can put employees in a new plan with either carrier for coverage beginning Feb. 1 or March 1. Be sure to have the old coverage end the day the new coverage begins.

    Businesses that actually remain in their current plans until March 31 must enroll their company and its employees through Vermont Health Connect — by web or by phone — in time to receive and pay an invoice by mid-March to avoid a lapse in coverage. Since no one knows Vermont Health Connect’s turn-around time for invoicing or delivering insurance cards, sooner is safer.

    There is a great deal of confusion. No one knows how well or how long Vermont Health Connect online will function.

    One thing is clear, and unfortunate: today is a critical day in Vermont’s health insurance evolution, and for many who are affected, it will slide by unnoticed.

    George Malek is executive director of the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce.

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