Vermont House panel to assess state health care exchange during summer

A legislative committee will meet this summer to examine whether the state should pursue an alternative to its health care exchange.

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After ending the 2015 legislative session, House Speaker Shap Smith authorized the 11-member House Committee on Health Care to meet several times during the summer and fall, Vermont Public Radio reported (http://bit.ly/1Lu3uEh ).

"The thought was that we would have the committee meet to understand whether the change-of-circumstances implementation had been successful, and to also look at potential alternatives for our current exchange if we thought it was necessary," Smith said.

Officials with Vermont Health Connect announced earlier this month the successful completion of a software upgrade for the troubled exchange that will allow the state to process changes in customers' insurance statuses more quickly.

Smith plans to meet with the commissioner of the department that oversees the exchange next week for a briefing on the progress with the software fixes.

The committee will answer questions about the exchange, including how to ensure that it's financially sustainable.

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The date of the committee's first meeting has not yet been set. State Rep. Bill Lippert, a Hinesburg Democrat and the chairman of the committee, said he is waiting for the U.S Supreme Court's decision on whether federal subsidies are available to states that are using the federal version of the exchange before convening the meeting.

Lippert said that by October the Vermont Health Exchange needs to have automatic renewal functions in place and eliminate its backlog of 8,000 customers seeking to make a change-of-circumstances update.

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Information from: WVPS-FM, http://www.vpr.net