BENNINGTON - Starting in 2014 everyone will have to have purchased health insurance. To make that easier Vermont must set up a health care benefit exchange. The exchange is scheduled be up and running by Jan. 1, 2014, and on Wednesday state officials held a forum at the Bennington Free Library explaining how the exchange will work.

Lindsey Tucker, commissioner of Health Insurance Exchange, said the Vermont Health Benefit Exchange will primarily be a website and be to health insurance what sites like Travelocity and Priceline are to airplane tickets and hotels, allowing customers to compare and purchase plans that suit them best.

Stephen Kimbell, commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation, said the exchange is not a health insurance plan and on its own does nothing to control costs. The Green Mountain Care Board, which along with the exchange was created by Act 48 to dovetail with the federal Affordable Care Act, is tasked with tackling the rising cost of health care. Kimbell said costs are rising out of control and not sustainable.

Insurance plans available now can be bought through the exchange. Tax credits are available to small businesses that choose to buy plans for employees through it. Those eligible for the exchange are individuals and small businesses with 50 or less employees. Kimbell said the exchange is meant to bridge the gap between the current system and a universal health care model envisioned by Gov. Peter Shumlin and President Barack Obama.