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The Valley Reporter
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Waitsfield, VT 05673
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Cavalier disregard

This week Vermont Health Connect announced that all small businesses that had extended their 2013 health insurance plans for 90 days would be required to sign up directly with either Blue Cross Blue Shield or MVP.

That press release made no mention of the fact that small businesses enrolling fewer than four employees in a Blue Cross plan would lose the ability for employees to choose which particular Health Connect plan best suited their needs.

So businesses with five or more enrollees get choice with Blue Cross. Smaller businesses do not get choice with Blue Cross, but they would with MVP.

According to Robin Lunge, director of the transition to the health care exchange for Vermont, "We remain committed to bringing the full employee choice option up as soon as possible."

That's no consolation for the estimated 20,000 people this impacts. As soon as possible is not good enough. This botched role out of the health care exchanges has very real and significant impacts on the small business employees who are mandated into the exchange.

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) which establishes state health care exchanges assures enrollees of choice. Yet our state is OK with excluding a specific sector of Vermont employees from choice.

Kevin Goddard, of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont, said that employers with one to four employees had to choose one plan for all. Employers with 4 to 24 employees could choose up to two different plans and employers with 25 or more employees could choose up to three different plans.

Imagine employees of Vermont's smallest businesses making choices based on the assumption (as assured by the state and the current administration) that they would have the platinum plan or the silver or the bronze when in fact they will get a one-size-must-fit-all plan.

Imagine Vermont's employers who remain committed to providing health care for their employees getting back in the business of shopping for plans.

Robin Lunge said it was "disappointing" but that's a very cavalier dismissal of the real impacts of taking away choice for far too many Vermonters.

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