I have held off on reaching out our state's representative body on the subject of Vermont Health Connect (VHC) until today. I realize that our representatives are busy but have urged them to take a moment to read and absorb the contents of this letter. I hope they find it to be constructive.
To Vermont's State Legislators:
For the first time in my 28 years as a benefits advisor, insurance broker, Vermont businessman and Vermont citizen, I am simply stymied by the long list of alterations to the "original" VHC plan conceived by Governor Shumlin and his supporters and am unable to justify the constant deviations that have taken place. On behalf of my clients who I continue to advise and assist in understanding and more importantly accepting our legislator's version of the Affordability Care Act, this latest change (see my firms urgent client communication below) has stopped us in our tracks unable to rationalize the decisions and actions that have made this program as far away from "choice" as any benefit could be, either public or private.
My role as an advisor is to provide clients with absolute and accurate guidance and information which they can depend on to balance their budgets and retain valued employees. This latest deviation leaves me downright embarrassed at the hackneyed performance of the design and implementation of VHC by designers and implementation experts that claim to be prepared to replace our services. As a Vermont businessman, the course this project is on is beyond risky and must be halted and intensely reviewed by an independent panel for its cost-effectiveness.
Please consider this history of deviations from the original concept of Vermont Health Connect Vermont's businesses have had to endure:
1. ObamaCare gave small businesses the choice to stay with private insurance or move to the exchange. Vermont / VHC outlaws the retail sale of small group insurance and mandates all groups must enroll in the VHC. This is Vermont law only.
2. Enrollment is slated to start Oct 1 but VHC is not up and running. Enrollment is postponed to Nov 1 and VHC is still not up and running. Within 2 weeks VHC can be accessed but now mandates that all enrollment decisions must be in by Nov. 24th or VHC will forcibly select a comparable plan ("map") for the group!
3. Vermont makes the decision as to what brokers will be paid, and then doesn't allow brokers to actually bill the client. Commission income will no longer be received monthly, we must wait quarterly. VHC still does not have the billing procedure in place to make this happen.
4. ObamaCare decides the exchanges are not running properly and holds small businesses off until 2015, concentrating on individuals/families/the uninsured. Vermont pushes ahead with small groups for 1/1/14, even though the VHC is not running properly or smoothly and many still cannot access.
5. With VHC not working, Vermont mandates that small groups will now be extended on their current or newly "mapped" plans until March 31st. Again, many groups have now been mapped to plans that the state believes is close to their current plan, removing all choice.
6. ObamaCare gives people a choice on how to pay these bills, by mail, by check, by EFT, by Credit Card. Vermont cannot get the billing system to work and will only email premium bills. When they do not reach all the intended, Vermont mails premium bills demanding immediate payment or the possibility of having your new coverage terminated. No other billing is in place, but Vermont is working on accepting Credit Cards...and then also charging those who use it the 4% fee so that the State does not incur any additional expense.
7. ObamaCare states that all individuals will have choice of which plan they want. Vermont now has decided that the VHC and billing system are not working. A new mandate dictates that small groups will enroll in the VHC exchange plans for 4/1/2014, but they must do so directly with one carrier. And, the # of plans you may select is based on group size. Individual employees no longer can select the plan they want, they must decide between 1, 2 or 3 plans (depending on group size). Everyone must use the same carrier. Where is the choice?
Issue #7 above is the latest and greatest offense against the intent of ObamaCare, "choice." It joins the other listed deviations as the administration's "knee jerk" decisions made to remedy the failed roll-out of VHC. Every time VHC and the administration attempts to detour around operational obstacles it throws Vermont business owners into a tail spin. Many of our clients have verbally expressed concern that this whole failure has got to be by design in order to bolster the argument for how a Single-Payer plan will ultimately rescue the ill-conceived ObamaCare program, presumably based on the majority opinion. I used to argue "no way" but given the extent of all the blundering it is hard to deny that the colossal waste of tax payer dollars and continued failures can all be attributed to incompetence...not only by the VHC but by the very body of representatives that voted it into law. The question is does the evolving roll-out of VHC still meet the majority interests of your constituents? Only an independent panel that includes seasoned and experienced consultants can be trusted at this point. I urge you to rally your fellow representatives and raise the red flag on VHC!
Jeff Marble, of Fairfax, Vt., is a current marketing and sales representative at Vermont Brokerage Services. He was formerly a marketing and sales representative for Comprehensive Benefits Administrator.