REGION – In preparation for open enrollment, state officials have launched the 2019 version of an online tool that helps Vermonters weigh insurance options and choose the health plan that best fits their needs and budget. The 2019 Plan Comparison Tool is accessible from www.VermontHealthConnect.gov and allows individuals and small business employees to easily screen at least 26 health plan options.
As in past years, the tool allows members to compare total costs in an average year or bad year, view doctor directories and drug lists, and much more. New this year, the tool also provides members with the ability to see their total costs in a low-use year or “good year” and the likelihood of someone with their age and health status having a good year.
With big changes on the horizon, the tool is an essential five-minute step for all current and prospective members of Vermont’s health insurance marketplace.
Current Vermont Health Connect members aren’t required to compare health plans or to take any action at all. As long as they continue to pay their bills, members are automatically renewed into the 2019 version of their 2018 plan. In past years, most members have gone this route. Due to this year’s changes, however, officials are strongly encouraging members to invest the time needed to be sure they’re in the best plan for them.
“This is not the year to auto-renew,” said Cory Gustafson, Commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access. “Comparison shopping is how Americans try to get the best deal possible for all kinds of consumer choices. That is true for every purchase, every year, but it’s especially true for health insurance in 2019. The difference between the ‘right plan’ and ‘wrong plan’ could easily be thousands of dollars. Fortunately, the Plan Comparison Tool will help Vermonters identify the right plan.”
The Plan Comparison Tool was developed by the nonprofit Consumers’ Checkbook and has won the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s award for best plan choice tool. This is the fourth year that Vermont is using the tool. It has been used in nearly 60,000 sessions over the last 12 months.
After taking a couple minutes to enter age, income, health status, and expected use of medical services, the anonymous tool tells the user if they qualify for financial help to lower the cost of coverage. It also presents the estimated total annual costs (premium minus subsidies plus estimated out-of-pocket) of each of the 26-plus qualified health plans. The user then has several options for sorting and screening results, or they can dive into plan details and link to more information on the BCBSVT and MVP websites.
This year’s Open Enrollment runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, just like last year. Vermonters who sign up or request a new plan will have a start date of Jan. 1. Those who miss the deadline could have to wait until January 2020 to start health coverage, although residents who qualify for Medicaid can sign up throughout the year and those who qualify for a Special Enrollment Period generally have 60 days to sign up.
For more information or to get started, visit www.VermontHealthConnect.gov or call 1-855-899-9600.