Vermont was another of the fourteen states that happily jumped right in to the task of creating their own fully independent ObamaCare exchange system, but much like its federal cousin, their marketplace has proved to be nothing short of an unmitigated disaster so far. They already had an extensive state-run healthcare operation in place before ObamaCare, but the rollout of their exchange has been fraught with its own prohibitive glitches and errors, and came with a hefty price tag of $170 million. Considering that Vermont is one of the least populous (and most progressive) states in the country with barely 626,000 residents, that’s certainly saying something.

The bungling of their open enrollment process has been a bit of an embarrassment for them, and over the weekend, the governor decided it was time to turn to contingency plans. Vermont’s own laws will virtually eliminate the option of purchasing private insurance for a lot of individual-market people and leave them with no other option for purchasing insurance other than the state exchange, and since Vermont’s exchange doesn’t really seem to work yet, that’s kind of a problem. The Burlington Free Press reports:

In the final pages of a law enacted in 2012, the Legislature spelled out a safety valve the Shumlin administration could use if the online health insurance marketplace then under development failed to operate as intended when it opened for business in 2013. …

After trying to remain upbeat despite a month of malfunctions, Gov. Peter Shumlin last week invoked the legal safety mechanism that will give thousands of Vermonters the option to temporarily bypass Vermont Health Connect to obtain health insurance coverage for 2014. …

“I won’t tolerate a situation where Vermonters go into the holiday season worried and confused by their health care options come Jan. 1. That is simply unacceptable,” Shumlin said. “I am taking steps to ensure that won’t happen. While thousands of Vermonters have signed up for coverage through Vermont Health Connect, many others have been frustrated by technology glitches. …

Using Section 41a of the 2012 health care law, the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation will allow individuals who buy their own insurance and small employers to extend their current coverage plans until March 31, despite Dec. 31 expiration dates.

Yeesh. The best (worst? I never can tell) part of this is that Vermont has some grandiose plans in the works to plunge ahead with what will eventually amount to a full-on single-payer system in the coming years. …Good luck with that.