No matter what your situation in life, navigating the world of health insurance can be a daunting task. When you are among the uninsured, that task can seem insurmountable. Since 1994, the nonprofit People’s Health & Wellness Clinic (PHWC) in Barre has been working to support the uninsured people of Central Vermont and doing so through the inspiring work of numerous volunteer healthcare practitioners.
Anyone is eligible to be a patient at PHWC if they are uninsured, underinsured (your health insurance deductible is greater than 7.5 percent of your household income), or their health insurance doesn’t cover certain services, such as massage, counseling, etc. Additionally, household income must be less than 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level ($49,920 yearly income for a household of one, $102,960 for a household of four).
“With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and Vermont Health Connect, we have seen a decrease in the uninsured population, but unfortunately the underinsured population in our state is growing,” notes executive director Rebecca Goldfinger-Fein. “We see this reflected in our patient data, with increased utilization by patients who have insurance but are still unable to access care because of cost or availability of providers to take on new patients. In the last five years, we have seen approximately an 11-percent increase in our underinsured population.”
Goldfinger-Fein adds that with Vermont Health Connect, people have multiple avenues to access health insurance. “Through state subsidies or via employer contributions, many people can enroll in insurance plans without shouldering the full cost. While some barriers to insurance have been reduced, we see many patients who still elect to opt out of insurance because of costs or enroll in plans with such high deductibles they are still unable to afford care,” she says.
Services provided by PHWC include medical care, mental health care, oral health care, bodywork and movement therapies, and other complementary and alternative services, tobacco cessation screening and treatment, Vermont Health Connect enrollment assistance, and You First (formerly Ladies First) enrollment, which provides free access to breast, cervical, and heart health screenings for eligible Vermonters.
Along with the wide array of services, PHWC also provides health education, which Goldfinger-Fein says comes in many forms. “Primarily, our case managers and volunteer providers tie education into each patient visit. This sort of one-on-one education allows patients to ask questions and develop strategies for prevention at home. Everything we provide at PHWC is completely free. We know that cost is a huge barrier to receiving care, and we want our patients to have access to all that we offer. Patient donations are encouraged, but by no means required.”
As the Hunger Mountain Co-op’s featured community partner, shoppers have the opportunity to support the essential work of the People’s Health and Wellness Clinic by rounding up their purchases to the next dollar from now until June 2. They can also opt into being asked to round up every time they shop by visiting the Co-op’s website at hungermountain.coop/give-change.
This text was provided by Hunger Mountain Co-op.