Larson said residents had expressed surprise that they might have to pay in October for coverage that becomes effective in January, and the date was pushed back in part to meet with consumer expectations.
The exchange will allow people to directly compare the offerings of the two major private health insurance providers in Vermont: Blue Cross Blue Shield and MVP Healthcare. Plans will be rated bronze, silver, gold and platinum, with bronze plans offering lower premiums but higher co-pays and deductibles and platinum plans offering higher premiums but lower co-pays and deductibles. The gold and silver plans offer intermediate options.
Kevin Goddard, vice president for external affairs and sales at Blue Cross, expressed confidence that the state will be ready to roll out its systems to consumers. People can go online to Vermont Health Connect, phone a call center or work with one of about 300 navigators to learn about their options.
But, Goddard says, he is concerned about how well the state's computer systems will perform when residents begin enrolling.
"It's a major IT (information technology) project, one of the biggest ever," he said. "It'll be something to watch over the next month."
For state Rep. Mike Fisher, the biggest worry is confusion and misinformation among the public about the changes. The Democrat from Bristol is chairman of the House Health Care Committee and was a key author of the 2011 legislation setting up the state exchange and making it a key building block for the universal health plan.
He said constituents have told him they will end up paying more for less coverage, but their fears are usually unfounded.
"They come and say they are really harmed in the exchange," Fisher said. "And when I sit down with them and look at the details of what's available to them, a vast majority of those people say, 'Wow, that's pretty familiar. I'm used to that."
But MVP officials say they've been getting ready for the new system since the law passed in 2010.
"From our perspective, we're ready for a smooth transition," said MVP Vermont Vice President Bill Little. "The other part of that is, Is the state ready? Are the feds ready? We're not the only player."
A poll commissioned by Vermont Health Connect found that as of late August, only 43 percent of Vermonters had heard of the new exchange and fewer than half of those people understood how it would work.