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(NECN: Jack Thurston, Colchester, Vt.) - On Twitter Friday, the office of Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vt., claimed the small state is number one in per-capita sign-ups for health insurance under the federal Affordable Care Act. The sweeping reform law requires Americans to have health coverage.
Vermont's state-run marketplace, called Vermont Health Connect, said Friday that 4,100 people had picked a plan by Friday afternoon. There's still about 96,000 or so Vermonters who'll need to select a plan either as individuals or through small businesses, according to estimates previously discussed by Robin Lunge, Vermont's director of health care reform.
"We're pleased with the progress we're making, but we know we have more work to do," said Mark Larson of Vermont Health Connect.
Larson acknowledged the Vermont site, as has its federal counterpart, suffered from technical glitches. Those prompted Gov. Shumlin to announce two weeks ago that Vermonters could have an extra three months on their existing plans while the state irons out the kinks.
"The clock's ticking," Shumlin said in a press conference on Oct. 31. "This [web portal] isn't working the way I wish it were."
So, then, what about the Shumlin tweet that said the state is doing better than others? "We always knew the transition would include some bumps along the way; that this was more a marathon than a sprint," Larson said.
Darcie Johnston and her group, Vermonters for Health Care Freedom, have long opposed mandated insurance purchases and are now criticizing the launch of the system. Johnston told New England Cable News she believes the website design is seriously flawed and employers in particular are having a hard time signing up. "We've failed. We've failed across the board," Johnston said. "It shouldn't be something anyone should be proud of."
However, Mark Larson said he insists the rollout is making progress every day. He added that he expects the pace will pick up toward the end of the year. "I think what we're happy about is Vermonters are using Vermont Health Connect," he told NECN.
Vermont is getting help signing up the uninsured. This week, the state's hospitals and several which sit in New Hampshire near Vermont's border, announced they will promote Vermont Health Connect to their patients.