Interruptions In Coverage Avoided For Thousands Of Vermonters
January 7, 2014
BERLIN - Following an unprecedented outreach and education campaign, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont (BCBSVT) implemented a late-year contingency plan in 2013 that protected more than 52,000 Vermonters from interruptions in their health care coverage. The member-focused work reflected a historic commitment by Vermont’s only local health plan to support Vermonters in their transition to the state’s new health care exchange, Vermont Health Connect (VHC).
At year’s end, more than 14,000 Vermonters who receive their health care coverage through small businesses had enrolled in VHC-approved qualified health plans directly through Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont. An additional 38,000 Vermonters had extended their 2013 coverage with BCBSVT under contingency options approved in late October by Gov. Peter Shumlin.
Although nearly 12,000 individuals who were seeking to purchase BCBSVT coverage through VHC were still being processed by the Exchange in early January, BCBSVT had maintained their enrollment on its system so coverage would continue until they successfully enroll through Vermont Health Connect. It has also created a process through which people enrolling for the first time in coverage can call BCBSVT and be entered in its system even before enrollment is processed by Vermont Health Connect.
“This has been an extraordinary time, creating unique challenges, confusion and uncertainty for thousands of Vermonters,” explained Don George, president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont. “We thank the small businesses of Vermont for their confidence in BCBSVT and for their patience and support as we put contingencies in place to assure there were no interruptions in their health care coverage while we worked to enroll them in the products of their choice.”
Under Vermont’s new health care reform initiatives, all Vermonters who purchase their health insurance directly or receive employer-sponsored health care coverage through small businesses were required to enroll through Vermont Health Connect for 2014. However, with some of VHC’s core functions still under development in late fall, Gov. Shumlin – with BCBSVT’s support -- announced a series of contingency options for small businesses and individuals, designed to help the transitioning population avoid any interruptions in coverage.
Recognizing the uncertainty and confusion small businesses and individuals were facing, specially trained BCBSVT “exchange specialists” made thousands of telephone calls over an eight-week period to small businesses and individuals, and a special enrollment services team the company created worked through the holidays to complete thousands of transactions to assure there would be no interruptions of coverage.
As a result, nearly 90 percent of the small businesses with BCBSVT coverage in 2013 had successfully enrolled directly in VHC products through BCBSVT for 2014, or had elected to extend their current coverage.
“One member wrote to us and said he felt as if a great weight had been removed from his family,” Mr. George said. “He said that BCBSVT had shown ‘the compassionate and professional side of health care.’”
Although interruptions in coverage were avoided, not every business was able to enroll in the plan of its choice under these contingency arrangements. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont is working with those customers to enroll them in their plans of choice over the next several months.
Mr. George said the work this fall followed a year-long outreach campaign through which BCBSVT directly engaged more than 70,000 Vermonters with information about the exchange and support for their decisions. The campaign involved community meetings, community events, webinars, and creation of a new “Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont Information and Wellness Center” in South Burlington.
“All of this work has been guided by our company’s mission commitment,” he said. “And that is, to always put the member experience first.”
With thousands of members remaining in extended coverage, the work to transition small businesses and individuals to qualified health plans will continue over the next few months, Mr. George said. He encouraged small business and individuals to call BCBSVT’s Exchange Specialists, at 1-800-255-4550 for information and support.
“Throughout the year we have promised to ‘see Vermonters through’ the changes in health care,” he said. “Although there have been more changes than anyone anticipated because of the contingencies associated with Vermont Health Connect, our commitment to Vermonters has not wavered and we remain determined to support our members with their health care coverage for 2014 and beyond. We believe that it has never been more evident that BCBSVT is an important part of Vermont’s health care system, and that Vermonters expect and rely on our company to guide and support them, now and in the future.”
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont is the state’s oldest and largest health insurer, providing coverage for about 200,000 Vermonters. It employs about 340 Vermonters at its headquarters in Berlin, a branch office in South Burlington and its Information and Wellness Center in South Burlington’s Blue Mall, and offers group and individual health plans to Vermonters. More information about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont is available on the Internet at www.bcbsvt.com. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont is an independent corporation operating under a license with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans.
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 37 independent, community-based and locally-operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide healthcare coverage for nearly 100 million members – one-in-three Americans. For more information on the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and its member companies, please visit bcbs.com. We encourage you to connect with us on Facebook, check out our videos on YouTube, follow us on Twitter and check out The BCBS Blog, for up-to-date information about BCBSA.