MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont has won conditional federal approval for its plan to build a consumer-friendly health insurance marketplace, officials announced Thursday.
"We commend Vermont for taking this important step towards providing affordable health insurance for consumers," Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, wrote to Gov. Peter Shumlin on Thursday.
Vermont is now one of 19 states, plus the District of Columbia, to have gotten word from a division of Sebelius' agency that they are on track to have a health exchange ready for business by Oct. 1.
Vermont's version will be called Vermont Health Connect. It will allow individuals, families and small businesses to review coverage and costs using a Web-based tool and will provide personnel to help less Web-savvy consumers through the process.
Robin Lunge, Gov. Peter Shumlin's director of health reform, said state officials saw cause for celebration with the federal OK, but he added that much work remains to get the exchange up and running by October, when it's scheduled to begin enrolling consumers.
Insurance companies are to submit bids shortly for what kinds of products they want to offer through the exchange and at what prices, she said.
The state also will be requesting proposals for organizations that want to provide navigators — people who will guide consumers through the process of shopping for insurance in the exchange, Lunge added. She said organizations providing navigators could include hospitals and community action agencies.