MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermonters will be allowed to extend their current health insurance policies through the end of March if problems with the state’s health insurance marketplace can’t be resolved in time for them to be enrolled by the original Jan. 1 date, Gov. Peter Shumlin said Thursday.

And under the changes Shumlin announced, small businesses will be able to work directly with the two health insurance companies operating in the state rather than having to purchase the insurance through the ailing Vermont Health Connect website.

Shumlin announced the changes a day after a test of the website failed to show that it would be reliable enough so people and small businesses would be able to enroll there and meet the original deadlines.

“I’ve been extraordinarily frustrated with the pace of progress with our website at Vermont Health Connect. And it should come as no surprise to you that Vermonters are, too,” Shumlin said.

The options are designed to ensure Vermonters won’t lose health insurance coverage if the problems with the website can’t be solved in time. The state implemented rules that would allow any Vermonters to extend their health insurance policy to March 31.

For small businesses, the state is working with the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont and MVP. Small businesses will be able to work directly with the insurers to be matched with an insurance plan from Vermont Health Connect that is most similar to the plan they are now using.

“Those two additional options should give Vermonters going into the holiday season the predictability and ease of mind that I believe they deserve, given the technical problems that we’ve been having, to know that they can go to sleep tonight knowing that there’s no way that they will lose insurance on Jan. 1 if the website continues to struggle,” Shumlin said.

More than 100,000 have visited the website, 10,480 Vermonters have created accounts and 2,283 Vermonters have selected plans in Vermont Health Connect, Shumlin said.

Meanwhile, the contractors are continuing to fix the website.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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