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Number Of Vermonters Without Health Care Unclear

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President Barack Obama delivers remarks about Obamacare. (credit:  Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama delivers remarks about Obamacare. (credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — It won’t be known for several months how many people who looked at buying health insurance through Vermont Health Connect determined it was too expensive and decided to go without, Vermont officials said Monday.

Vermont Health Connect spokeswoman Emily Yahr said the best answer to that question won’t come until consumer surveys are out later this year.

When the Vermont Health Connect exchange, opened in compliance with the Affordable Care Act, began covering people in January, enrollees in two previous state-subsidized health insurance programs, the Vermont Health Access Plan and Catamount Health, moved over to Vermont Health Connect, with those who met income guidelines taking insurance under an expanded Medicaid program and others signing up for the offerings of private insurers.

Or at least the vast majority did, Yahr said.

Determining how many went from one of the two state programs to no insurance could not be simply determined by comparing enrollments in those programs and Vermont Health Connect, she said. That’s because some left the state programs because a new job offered health insurance, or because they went on a spouse’s plan, Yahr added.

Under the federal law, those who decide to go without coverage face a penalty at tax time: a minimum payment of $95 per adult and $47.50 per child in the household, with higher earners paying 1 percent of adjusted gross income.

Chris Brzezicki, of Barre, said the penalty for himself and his wife, Carol, would be more than $400. But that would be more affordable than monthly premium payments of $250 and an annual policy deductible of $7,000 offered under Vermont Health Connect, Brzezicki said.

“Do you know we’re driving 16-year-old cars?” asked Brzezicki, a bread and pastry baker in his early 50s who said he earns $15 an hour. An extra $250 a month would be used on a newer car, rather than health insurance, he said.

Sandra Singer, a Vermont Health Connect navigator who has been helping clients of Central Vermont Community Action, a Barre-based social service agency, said in an interview in late March that she was worried about people like the Brzezickis.

“They’ve made a conscious choice to be uninsured and to take the penalty at the end of the year,” Singer said. “They’ve decided they cannot afford the premium and also the product they could buy with it,” including out-of-pocket costs not covered by insurance, she said.

Singer did not immediately return a call for comment Monday.

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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