Rural Health Network helps cover COVID-19 testing for uninsured in Grand
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that the Rural Health Network received a grant from the Grand Foundation — not the Mountain Family Center — for COVID help earlier this year.
The Grand County Rural Health Network has been helping provide access to COVID-19 testing for the 20% of people in Grand who are uninsured.
Jen Fanning, executive director of the Rural Health Network, explained on Tuesday to the Grand Board of County Commissioners that the organization has issued more than twice the number of ACHES and PAINS vouchers this year compared to the same time last year.
The ACHES and PAINS voucher programs have long been the method the Rural Health Network uses to meet the needs of low-income, uninsured residents in Grand County. When the pandemic began in March, the organization quickly adjusted the policy for those vouchers to include primary care visits and testing related to COVID-19.
While about one in five people in Grand County were uninsured before the pandemic, Fanning suspects that number has gone up with the increase in unemployment. She has not been able to find concrete numbers, though.
Of the 37 vouchers issued this year related to COVID-19, nine have gone toward testing while the rest have gone toward mental health. Another 55 vouchers have gone out for other supplemental services.
Fanning said that a voucher has already been issued for a student to get the COVID-19 test.
She explained that continuing the voucher program for students, teachers and staff will be instrumental in making sure everyone who needs a test or a primary care visit gets one.
“(They) need that primary care or test to get that determination straight away so hopefully those kids can get back in school,” Fanning said.
Beyond testing for students, school staff and their families, the Rural Health Network also plans to offer vouchers for ski resort staff who need it for the upcoming season. Fanning said the organization has been in talks with the ski resort to make sure its employees are aware of this resource.
The Rural Health Network works with “points of entry,” such as primary care providers, school nurses, public health officials and the human resource department at Winter Park. These providers have the applications available so that uninsured individuals get the care they need.
While the Rural Health Network received a grant from the Grand Foundation to provide vouchers for COVID help earlier this year, Fanning said that those funds were gone by June. Since then, the Rural Health Network has been “cobbling” together general funds to continue providing this voucher service.
Fanning asked the county commissioners if they could help supplement these testing vouchers. Her ask was for funds to cover 25 more tests, which cost about $300 each, but the county rounded up to $10,000.
“If these people can’t afford it and they need a test, they need to be able to get it,” Commissioner Kris Manguso said.
The commissioners unanimously agreed to provide that amount to the Rural Health Network. County staff will work to determine exactly where those funds will come from, as the amount may be eligible for reimbursement from state or federal coronavirus funds.
“That will make a huge difference in our community, I think,” Fanning said, thanking the county for its contribution.
More information on the ACHES and PAINS programs, including eligibility, can be found at http://www.gcruralhealth.com/Programs/ACHESPAINS.aspx.
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