Graceful Health: Need basic resources? I can help!

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Is it time to choose a new Medicare D plan? Do you need help with paying for your doctor visits or your medicines? Wondering if you might qualify for heating or food assistance? Many people are surprised to find out they do qualify for some help.

My job as Grace Cottage Family Health & Hospital's Patient Resource Advocate is to advocate for you, by talking about your situation and helping you to apply for any programs that can help you stay healthy and that may reduce your financial burden.

Maybe you can't afford to buy new glasses. Maybe you need a tooth filled and have no dental insurance. Maybe you need a blood test but you're afraid you can't afford it. I have information available about programs that can help, and I'm happy to help you fill out any of the application forms.

When it comes to picking a Medicare program, the options can be very confusing. The "open enrollment" period is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, so Medicare beneficiaries will have to make their choices soon. I'm currently learning to help guide clients through the choices for Medicare Plans A & B (Senior Solutions is the current go-to expert), but I am fully trained already to help you choose and sign up for a Medicare Plan D.

Just in case you're newly eligible and wondering, Medicare A is for hospitalization, Medicare B is for outpatient care, Medicare C is an alternate form of hospital and outpatient insurance with alternate policies and coverage, and Medicare D is for prescriptions. Most people choose to be covered by A, B, and D.

Another large part of my job as a Resource Advocate is to assist patients in filling out applications for reduced fee or free care at Grace Cottage. At Grace Cottage, we value every patient, and it's important for community members to know that we provide care to anyone who needs it, regardless of their ability to pay. If you need to see a doctor, we want you to do so.

You will never be turned away at the emergency room or the primary care clinic because you cannot pay. Financial assistance is available to any local resident who needs it, based on financial need. If you're afraid you will not qualify for financial assistance, please know there are many factors considered. I'm here to help, and I hope you will feel free to ask. There is information about this program on the Grace Cottage website, but you can also call me at 802-365-3770.

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I have been doing patient resource advocacy work for over four years, first at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and now at Grace Cottage. I really enjoy what I do. Many people don't realize how much they qualify for. Maybe they're

embarrassed to ask. I hope I can help people overcome that. Healthy food, fuel assistance, dental care, rent subsidies, health insurance choices, childcare subsidies, adult caregiver support - all of these and more are vital resources that support health. I'm here for you.

Two more things to mention before I close.

First, Grace Cottage hosts the monthly "Veggie Van Go" program. Any local resident can come on the fourth Thursday of the month (special dates for November and December: fourth Friday, Nov. 22, and third Thursday, Dec. 19) and pick up a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables for free (open noon to 1 p.m.). Sometimes, other foods are also available. This service is provided thanks to the Vermont Foodbank. Also, the Townshend Food Shelf is open weekly, on Monday evenings, to anyone who needs food. You might see me at either of these places. If so, feel free to ask me about any of the other ways I can help you.

Also, my job includes estimating costs for various services your provider has ordered, so you can predict the cost ahead of time. I can look up the cost if the service is to be offered at Grace Cottage, and I can direct you to the right person who is my counterpart at another healthcare institution.

I am at Grace Cottage five days a week, with appointments available starting at 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Give me a call if any of these words spark ideas for ways I can help you. All consultations are free and confidential.

Jocelyne Smith is licensed with Vermont Health Connect to sign up Vermonters for both Medicaid and Vermont Health Connect plans. She earned her Associate's degree in Medical Assisting from Mandle School in the College of Allied Health in New York City, where she also worked as both a biller and Co-Medical Office Assistant in a private practice. She is presently working toward her bachelor's in Healthcare Administration through Southern New Hampshire University.


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