WILMINGTON -- With the new health insurance marketplace open and accepting customers, residents from the Deerfield Valley were invited to a presentation that focused on the changes that were made to the way in which people are covered.
On Oct. 9, the crowd at Memorial Hall was told that the new marketplace, known as Vermont Health Connect, would affect approximately a quarter-of-a-million residents in the state.
"We’re moving into a phase where people will be more empowered when they buy insurance and we as the consumer can better understand what it means to have a health plan," said Vermont Health Connect Public Information Officer Emily Yahr.
She explained that navigators as well as brokers were available upon request for consulting. Navigators are better equipped to assist people with enrolling using a website or by telephone. They are trained to answer questions and assist others with becoming acquainted with the new system.
There are four goals of the state’s new health care system, Yahr said. These goals include reducing costs, assuring all Vermonters have access to quality health care, improving the health of Vermont’s population and assuring greater fairness and equality in how health care is paid for.
She said that the governor-appointed Green Mountain Care Board is an independent body that is "working hard at fixing the fractures in our health care system." The board has been busy attempting to introduce a single-payer health care system by 2017.
Yahr explained that the new marketplace had been a result of the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. She said that calling it Obamacare is just a shortened way of putting it.
The presentation stated that the Vermont Health Connect website allows users to compare health insurance plans easier and clear than before.
"You’re greater able to understand what you’re choosing," said Yahr.
Financial assistance will be available to approximately 50,000 people in the state with different levels of income.
All the plans available through the marketplace are high quality plans, Yahr said. There are two providers to choose from -- Blue Cross Blue Shield and MVP.
"We’re a really small state. We only have 100,000 people who fall into purchasing independently or at a small group rate," said Yahr, when discussing why there are only two providers in the marketplace. "By 2014, everyone is going to be mandated to have health insurance if they can find an affordable plan."
The penalty is a fine that will gradually increase each year.
Pre-existing conditions that had caused people to be denied certain insurance policies in the past will no longer be a concern, said Yahr. People with these conditions will be guaranteed entry into the Vermont Health Connect.
"Whatever it is that insurance company denied you for can no longer happen," she added.
Yahr also mentioned that out of pocket and expenditure costs will have limits now.
"I like to consider this financial help that will help people pay for their plans," she said.
Those who are 26 years and younger can remain on their parents’ health insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act.
If a business has 50 employees or less, it can be defined as a small business. The small business community had requested making it 50 employees rather than 100, Yahr said.
"(Businesses with over 50 employees) will continue to offer insurance the way they are today," she added.
With the Vermont Health Connect in place, Yahr said it is believed that more people will opt to start their own businesses because the fear of not being covered won’t be as great anymore.
For more information or to sign up for a plan, visit http://VermontHealthConnect.gov.