Legal Aid hotline swamped with health care questions - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Legal Aid hotline swamped with health care questions

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St. Albans resident Susan Rixon signed up for new health coverage on Vermont Health Connect and was happy her monthly bills would be cut in half -- from $2,000 to $1,000.

She picked a plan on-time and paid on-time. Rixon says the state cashed her check on January 15th and she still doesn't have an ID number. "They took my money -- I don't have my insurance card, but they took my money," she said.

Rixon, a cancer survivor, and her daughter both need regular care. Care that's been put on hold while Vermont Health Connect takes weeks to process her coverage. She says assurances from call center representatives that she's not alone in her struggle for coverage don't really help. "It would be one thing if I thought I was alone in this, if I was an anomaly," she said. "But the sad part is that I'm not an anomaly...  ...it's the process that's the problem."

The scope of the problem remains unclear, as Health Connect administrators say they can't determine how many people are experiencing issues like Rixon's.

Trinka Kerr is the Chief Health Care Advocate at Vermont Legal Aid. She says the helpline at her office had record high volume in December because of problems with Vermont Health Connect -- and Kerr says the phone keeps ringing. "I wouldn't say we have turned a corner yet," she said. "Our call volume is still going up."

Reporter Kyle Midura: Obviously you're frustrated -- is all this worth $1,000 less a month?

Susan Rixon: Absolutely not. I would've paid $2,000 for the month of January to not have the stress and start my insurance in February.

Health Access Commissioner Mark Larson is expected to provide an update to the legislature Wednesday. He'll also appear on Channel 3's The :30.

Based on timelines provided by the state, Rixon should receive her card and ID number this week. Consumer advocates say if you're struggling to get coverage, your first call should be to Vermont Health Connect's hotline, and your next call to them.

The Office of the Health Care Advocate at Vermont Legal Aid is 1-800-917-7787.

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