WATERBURY, VT –As 2019 Open Enrollment draws to a close for Vermont’s health insurance marketplace, state officials are urging Vermonters to sign up online at VermontHealthConnect.gov or to take advantage of the Customer Support Center’s extended hours: today from 8 am to 8 pm and tomorrow (December 15th) from 8 am to 5 pm.
Officials also warn that wait times can be long on the phones. Volume is always high when deadlines approach. This year, interest is especially high because existing members are poised to save hundreds of dollars by changing plans and most uninsured Vermonters can find plans that are almost entirely paid for by increased financial help.
“We are committed to helping Vermonters get into their chosen plan for January 1st,” said Department of Vermont Health Access Commissioner Cory Gustafson. “And I don’t want people to have to wait on hold a long time to do so. If you can sign-up online, please do. The system can handle the volume. If you call and are told the wait is more than 20 minutes, feel free to take the call-back option. Or just call us back tomorrow or next week. We’ll help you finish.”
Vermont does not have the authority to extend open enrollment but is permitted to help Vermonters apply or change plans after the deadline if they are unable to get through before the deadline.
The Department of Vermont Health Access also offered these suggestions:
• If you have a non-urgent question and don’t want to wait on hold, consider calling late next week.
• If you don’t qualify for financial help and have already signed up for 2019 coverage through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont or MVP Health Care, don’t wait on hold today to cancel your Vermont Health Connect plan. Call next week when wait times are shorter.
• If you have family, friends or neighbors who still need health insurance, please encourage them to check the Plan Comparison Tool to see if they’ll qualify for a free or low-cost plan.
• Read and share the Department’s Open Letter to Everyone Who Has Helped Vermonters Get into the Right Health Coverage.
Fast Facts on 2019 Comparison Shopping
• The last four days have been the highest volume days ever for Vermont’s Plan Comparison Tool.
◦ Monday and Tuesday had 900 sessions each day;
◦ Wednesday and Thursday had more than 1,000 sessions each day;
◦ Prior to this week, the tool had never seen more than 760 sessions in a single day (that previous high being last December 15th).
• The 2019 tool has had nearly 35,000 sessions since its launch in late October.
◦ That’s more sessions than there are people in the individual market, including those enrolled outside of the health insurance marketplace;
◦ Usage is up 59% over last year.
• Vermonters are investing more time in their comparison shopping.
◦ The average session this year has been close to eight minutes, compared to just over six minutes last year.
• Most Vermonters who sign up through the health insurance marketplace qualify for financial help to lower their monthly premiums and/or out-of-pocket costs.
◦ Income thresholds vary by household size, going up to nearly $49,000 for an individual, $66,000 for a two-person household, and $100,000 for a family of four;
• Due to a complex set of policy changes, the federal government is providing a lot more financial help in 2019;
◦ A family of four earning $100,000 will receive over $3,000 more in financial help than they received in 2018;
◦ A couple earning $50,000 per year can find plans as low as $19 per month (92% less than it would have cost them in 2018);
◦ Many Vermont Health Connect members can save more than a thousand dollars by changing to a different ‘metal level’ insurance plan, per the 2019 Plan Comparison Tool.