REGION – State officials reported that nearly 23,000 Vermonters had confirmed a 2018 health plan and qualified for financial help to make the plan more affordable. Total enrollment in qualified health plans, which typically includes 46,000 small business employees and 11,000 individuals who don’t qualify for financial help, is expected to surpass 80,000. While enrollment will be similar to past years, this year’s earlier deadline means fewer members will experience gaps in coverage. In past years, nearly 2,000 members missed out on January coverage.
The health insurance marketplace and its carrier partners are also urging Vermonters who had trouble completing their transaction at the Dec. 15 deadline to call as soon as possible. Vermont Health Connect applicants – those who qualify for financial help or have variable incomes that may qualify – should call 1-855-899-9600. Similarly, members who do not qualify for financial help and were trying to direct enroll with an insurance carrier are encouraged to call BlueCross BlueShield of Vermont (1-800-255-4550) or MVP Health Care (1-844-865-0250) as soon as possible and complete their enrollment.
“We came into this fall with three enrollment goals,” said Cory Gustafson, commissioner of Department of Vermont Health Access. “First, we wanted as many Vermonters as possible to sign up for January coverage and the financial help to make it more affordable. Second, we wanted to encourage members who don’t qualify for financial help to sign up directly with their carrier and establish a single point of contact for managing their account. Third, we wanted everyone to do their homework and make sure they’re in the best plan for their needs and budget.”
In addition to enrollment numbers, state officials pointed to record usage for the marketplace’s Plan Comparison Tool, which can help individuals and small business employees determine the best plans for their families’ needs and budgets. The tool was used 938 times on Nov. 1, nearly a 50 percent increase over the same day last year, and it was used 1,069 times on Dec. 15, nearly a 50 percent increase over the last day of open enrollment last year. The interactive site calculates state and federal subsidies based on projected household income and allows Vermonters to compare plans not just by monthly premiums and deductible amounts, but also by estimated total annual costs based on the age and health status of each household member. Altogether, the 2018 tool hosted more than 23,000 sessions.
Income thresholds for financial help vary by household size, going up to about $48,000 for an individual, $65,000 for a two-person household, and $98,000 for a family of four. The amount of financial help varies by household income, with Vermont Health Connect’s typical individual member having an annual income just over $25,000 and receiving nearly $400 per month toward the 2018 insurance plan of their choice. Couples and families generally receive more.
“We are fortunate to live in a state with such a rich social fabric,” said Gustafson. “From in-person assisters and state staff to community organizations, businesses, and town officials, Vermonters helped their neighbors understand the deadline and get signed up for Jan. 1 health coverage.”