MONTPELIER -- This is the last week for Vermonters formerly covered by the state-subsidized health insurance plans VHAP and Catamount to enroll in coverage for 2014 through Vermont Health Connect.
Open enrollment ended March 31, but because the VHAP and Catamount health plans ended at the same time, people covered through either program were afforded a 60-day special enrollment period.
"It's very important that people who were on VHAP and Catamount don't miss the deadline for enrolling in new coverage because, unless they're eligible for Medicaid, they won't be able to get covered until the next open enrollment period," said Donna Sutton Fay, with the Vermont Campaign for Health Care Security Education Fund.
The next open enrollment period begins Nov. 15. The concept of open enrollment can be confusing for Vermonters formerly covered by VHAP or Catamount because those programs allowed people to cycle in-and-out on a monthly basis.
As of December, there were 36,508 people covered through VHAP, which was state-sponsored health care similar to Medicaid but offered to higher income levels, and close 13,105 people covered through Catamount, which was state-subsidized private insurance, according to figures from the Department of Vermont Health Access.
The federal Medicaid expansion through the Affordable Care Act, which also increased the income eligibility for the safety net program, allowed many of the people in both programs to automatically qualify.
Vermont transitioned 33,188 people from those programs onto Medicaid last year.
At the end of April, there were 1,201 people formerly covered by VHAP who had not signed up for Medicaid or purchased a subsidized plan through Vermont Health Connect. That number for Catamount was 1,812.
It's possible some portion of that group obtained coverage another way, such as through a new job offering health benefits or going onto a spouse's health plan.
"I think the state has found a pretty effective way of reaching out to people that still need to sign up," Fay said.
Vermont Health Connect has sent out final reminders to former VAHP and Catamount members who have yet to sign up, according to a recent newsletter.
Fay said that direct mail postcards notifying people of sign-up events the state is hosting in their area have been an effective enrollment tool.
People can also go to one of the state navigator organizations or call the Vermont Health Connect help center at 1-855-899-9600.
Vermonters who think they may qualify for Medicaid can check their ability and enroll in that program at any time.
People can also have qualifying events at any time that will trigger a special enrollment period for them, typically lasting 60 days.
Qualifying events can be things like losing coverage - because of a job loss or going off a parent's insurance plan - or getting married or adding a dependent.