NMC Commentary

Is Vermont Health Connect’s “Open Enrollment” Now Open?

Yes!  If you do not have health insurance, or if you already have coverage and want to change plans for 2018 through the Vermont Health Connect exchange, you must do so by December 15, 2017.  Having health insurance coverage is an important part of health and well-being. As we talk to patients and families, we stress that with coverage, you get financial protection from unexpected medical costs that can be significant. It also brings access to free preventive care like check-ups, screenings, and vaccines.

The Vermont Health Connect website has been designed to help Vermonters through the process of acquiring the right health insurance for their needs.  Their website — https://portal.healthconnect.vermont.gov – explains, “Vermont Health Connect is a way to choose a health plan that fits your needs and your budget. Both private and public plans are available and we have all the information you need to find the plan that’s right for you – all in one place. All of the plans offered through Vermont Health Connect offer the same quality benefits like doctor visits, hospital stays, preventive care, and prescription coverage – so there’s no guesswork about what’s covered. Depending on how much you earn, you might qualify for a low-cost or free health plan. Or you may get financial help to lower your monthly premium costs or what you pay when you go to the doctor. We know that finding the right health plan can be a challenge. That’s why we’re offering help at every step of the way – online, by phone call toll-free 1-855-899-9600, or in-person.”

Additional information on their website explains the available assistance in greater detail.  For those looking for online help, the Vermont Health Connect website has many features, including a “Plan Comparison Tool” which “takes you through a few simple steps to find the right medical plan for someone like you. Every medical plan available to you on Vermont Health Connect is compared by total estimated cost (not just premiums or deductibles) and more.”  You can even “use the tool to find out if you can get help paying for coverage.” For the telephone support, Vermont Health Connect online says, “Our Customer Support Center is available to help, Monday through Friday, 8am – 5pm.  Our trained Customer Service Representatives are here to assist you and can help: answer questions about new or existing coverage; apply for new coverage; make changes to existing coverage; explain notices and letters we send you; and help verify information we may have requested.”  They also have an online directory of people who can help you in person.  Two resources are listed for Franklin and Grand Isle Counties: Northwestern Medical Center (NMC) and the Champlain Valley Office of Equal Opportunity (CVOEO).  Here at NMC, you can access assistance by speaking with Kevin King, RN Care Manager, at 802-524-1202 or Bryan Kiernan, Financial Counselor, at 802-524-1006.  At CVOEO, you can access assistance by speaking with Rebecca Moyer, Social Worker, at 802-527-7392, extension 107.  These folks have special training to help you navigate the system. They would be happy to meet with you and help you secure the coverage you need.  There are additional resources available for those age 65 or older, or those on Medicare because of blindness or a disability. If you or a loved one are in that group, Vermont Health Connect online says, “Call the Senior HelpLine at 1-800-642-5119.  They can answer your questions, including how to enroll in Medicare. They can also help you choose a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan that works best for you.  You may also qualify for State of Vermont programs, including Medicaid, that help reduce the cost of Medicare. Call Green Mountain Care at 1-800-250- 8427 to find out more information, and get help applying for those programs.”

If you need health insurance coverage, or want to make a change in the coverage you have, do not put off reaching out and getting it arranged.  The open enrollment period is shorter this year than it has been in the past and there has been less advertising of the availability.  Remember, the enrollment period ends December 15 and that is coming soon! As you ensure that you have the proper coverage, make sure you are up to date with your Primary Care Provider, too.  If you have not had a check up in a year, call your provider and make an appointment.  If you do not have a Primary Care provider, call Erin in NMC’s Community Relations Office at 802 524-1280 and she can help get you connected. Your relationship with your Primary Care provider, and your health insurance coverage, are two important steps to ensure your optimal health.

— Jill Berry Bowen, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer