By Jocelyne Smith, Grace Cottage Resource Advocate
Have you figured out how to get food, heat, and health insurance to cover you through the upcoming winter months?
As Resource Advocate for Grace Cottage Family Health & Hospital, I get lots of questions about these needs. I’d like to offer some information here that can help you.
First, I want to alert you to the fact that this is the time of year to sign up for health insurance through Vermont Health Connect (VHC). The open enrollment period for these plans is Nov. 1, 2022, through Jan. 15, 2023.
You may be thinking you can’t afford this insurance. I suggest you take a new look at what VHC has to offer. Funding from the American Rescue Plan has helped to reduce rates for health insurance available through VHC. Plans are income-sensitive, and I am finding that my clients are pleasantly surprised by what is being offered.
Most uninsured Vermonters say they have no coverage because they can’t afford it.
Vermont Health Access, the government department that oversees Vermont Health Connect has posted the following statement on its website: “Most Vermonters find that qualified health plans are more affordable than ever before thanks to expanded federal financial assistance … Reduced premium costs allow Vermonters to afford plans that have lower deductibles and lower out of pocket costs.”
It takes only a free visit to the internet to see this for yourself. All of the details about available plans can be accessed at VermontHealthConnect.gov. There’s a plan comparison tool on the home page of the website, and if you want some help, that’s my job. I help people understand their choices and help get them signed up.
It’s always a good idea to confirm that your current Medicare drug plan (Part D) is still going to cover your specific meds and preferred pharmacy next year. These plans can change the amount they will cover as well as which pharmacies you are able to use. Premiums can jump significantly from year to year. Medicare.gov is a great tool to use to see what’s available for next year. If you need help with the process, give me a call! I can explain the site and walk you through, or you can schedule an appointment with me. Medicare open enrollment is Oct 15 – Dec 7.
I can also help Grace Cottage patients sign up for free or reduced-fee care. We don’t want you to avoid healthcare for fear you can’t afford it. Call me at 802-365-3770. Our income guidelines have recently increased, so please, if you are struggling with bills, give me a call to discuss whether or not you qualify for a reduction or just need to set up a payment plan for bills that you are comfortable with.
It’s important for me to say, however, that I never push people to take something they don’t want. I’m a Resource Advocate, and as such I provide information, but I never pressure you. You are always the one in charge. I offer you choices, and you choose what you want to do with them. My main goal is to make sure no one goes without because they don’t know what resources are available.
I’m also here to help with the paperwork required, which admittedly can be quite daunting when faced alone. Because I do it all the time, it’s much easier to get it done as a team of two. Fuel assistance, reduced utility rates, affordable housing, and more – these are just a few of the programs that can help you. If you have a need, do not hesitate to call me, and we’ll work on it together, or I’ll connect you to an agency that can better assist you.
Now, regarding food resources, did you know that Grace Cottage hosts a monthly “Veggie Van Go” food giveaway program at the Newfane Church on the backside of the Newfane Common? Any local resident can come between noon and 1 p.m., generally on the fourth Thursday of the month. For November and December, the dates are Tuesday, Nov. 29, and Thursday, Dec. 22.
“Veggie Van Go” offers fresh fruits and vegetables, and sometimes bread, dairy, or meat, all for free. This food is provided by the Vermont Foodbank. Also, the Townshend Food Shelf is open every Monday evening for anyone who needs food. Hours are 6-7:30pm.
Please don’t hesitate to ask for help with these resources – they are vital to your health! I’m ready, willing, and able to help. Please pass this information along to anyone who could benefit.