Officials pleased with early Catamount Health applications

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(Host) Officials say they’re pleased with the early results of an outreach effort aimed at getting Vermonters health coverage.

The idea behind the marketing and education campaign is to reach people who don’t know that they may qualify for a state health plan, and then steer them to the right program

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The new Catamount state-sponsored health plan began accepting applications ten days ago.

Susan Besio is the state’s director of health care reform implementation. She says when someone calls or checks the web site to find out about Catamount, they may learn they qualify for another health plan instead.

(Besio) And we know that half the people who are uninsured are eligible for our existing programs already – VHAP, Dr. Dynasaur, and Medicaid. And so we’re really going to be saying, every Vermonter needs to pick up the phone, call the 800 number, go to the web, fill out an application form, because you may very well be eligible for one of the family of programs available to you now.

(Dillon) Besio gave a progress report to a legislative oversight committee. She said the state has received 568 applications since September 30. No one has yet been enrolled, because the applications are still being screened and processed.

There are about 61,000 Vermonters without health insurance. Besio says the state wants to enroll as many as possible.

(Besio) We’re feeling really good. The fact that the screen tool has gotten 1,100 hits in the first five days, without any very broad-based marketing and campaigning around these products.

(Dillon) The state will launch its marketing campaign in November. A coalition of groups has raised $170,000 to help with the outreach effort. Peter Sterling is director of the Vermont campaign for health care security education fund.

He says the hardest part of the job is telling people that that they have to wait a year before they are eligible for Catamount.

(Sterling) … Explaining to them why they can’t get help, when in reality their income is often not much different than someone who is eligible for Catamount health premium assistance. It’s a very difficult phone call to deal with.

(Dillon) There are exceptions to the mandatory waiting period. If you lose your job that has health coverage, for example, you can qualify for Catamount immediately.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.


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