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Vt. health exchange gets conditional federal OK

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 3, 2013 at 4:24 pm •  Published: January 3, 2013

Vermont is unique among the states in that, under legislation passed in 2011, it is looking to use the exchange as a springboard toward a state-run, single-payer health insurance system by 2017 that will be similar to the current federal Medicare program for older and disabled Americans but available to all Vermonters.

The conditional approval Thursday drew praise for the Shumlin administration from the head of a group that has been sharply critical of Vermont's longer-term single-payer plan.

"Most of the material that I've read indicates that Vermont is ahead of the pack relative to other states" that are working to set up health care exchanges," said Jeff Wennberg of Vermonters for Health Care Freedom. He praised the administration's progress on "a nearly impossible task, given the time frame."

Shumlin said in a statement: "Vermont continues to be a leader in health care reform, and this is another illustration of our progress toward meeting our reform goals. We are building an Exchange that works for Vermonters now and in the future."

The statement described Vermont Health Connect as "the marketplace for individuals, families, and small businesses to compare and purchase qualified private health insurance plans, determine eligibility for and enroll in public health insurance plans, and access tax credits and financial assistance to make insurance affordable."