When Aretha Brown found herself in new circumstances as a single mom with no job, someone told her to go see Sarah Kuh and the staff at Vineyard Health Care Access. She had already made her way through the road map of agencies, qualifying for WIC and SNAP and a couple of other programs, but when it came to health care coverage, she was lost.

“I consider myself a literate person and capable, but I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know what was out there,” Ms. Brown said. “I’m so grateful for Sarah and the women over there. They already know it and they know exactly what you need.”

Ms. Brown needed transitional health care coverage and was able to get herself and her young daughter enrolled in Mass Health with the help of Vineyard Health Care Access. She recently began a new job that provides health care coverage and she has passed her probation period on the job. She plans to make another appointment with Ms. Kuh so that they can discuss what her new options are: should she add her daughter to her coverage offered through her employer or should she keep her enrolled in Mass Health?

Sailing through the stormy seas of the health care system requires a navigator. Ms. Kuh and the staff at Vineyard Health Care Access steer Islanders through the murky waters of eligibility and hopefully onto successful enrollment in whichever health care plan is best suited to each individual.

Geordie Gude came to Ms. Kuh with a challenging situation. He needed coverage for his wife and three boys as well as himself. And he had a preexisting condition: he had cancer. “Obviously I was really nervous about switching,” Mr. Gude said. He was unemployed and not looking forward to figuring out how to sign up for new health insurance.

“Sarah is amazing to me,” he said. “I called first and they told me what to bring in. She’d ask questions and she never made me feel small. She did everything so effortlessly and we did get coverage.”

Representatives from Vineyard Health Care Access, state Rep. Timothy Madden, deputy executive director of the Massachusetts Health Connector Ashley Hague, and Jason Lefferts, director of communications for Commonwealth Health Connector, came together at the Dukes County administration building last Friday to kick off the upcoming open enrollment period.

From Nov. 15 to Feb. 15, 2015, people can sign up using the new online marketplace at the website MAhealthconnector.org to apply and to pick a plan. Representatives from the health connector said the site was revamped this year and improved over last year’s online system.

“The system we put in place last year didn’t work, it was difficult to get through,” Mr. Lefferts said. “It didn’t do the things we needed it to do to help people determine where they belong, therefore some people were moved into temporary coverage. They will need to re-enroll.”

He said they had “tested the daylights out of the new system.”

“The application process should be shorter and easier to manage than last time,” he said.

Besides the online option, people can enroll via an intake session over the telephone, or by setting up an appointment with Vineyard Health Care Access.

There are more than 400,000 people in Health Connector programs or enrolled in temporary Medicaid coverage who will need to submit new applications in order to continue their coverage. Each program has its own deadline.

Health Connector members in Qualified Health Plans must apply and pick a plan by Dec. 23. Members in legacy Commonwealth Care or the Medical Security Plan must apply by Jan. 23 and those currently with temporary coverage will have their coverage end in one of three different “waves,” either by Jan. 15, Feb. 1 or Feb. 15. There will be an impressive campaign to make sure people sign up and don’t experience a gap in their health care coverage. Ms. Hague explained that letters will be sent, phone calls made and even a door-to-door effort to remind people to renew their coverage.

“We’re trying to get the word out,” Ms. Hague said. “We’ll be sending out a mailing a number of times — post cards, letters. Please open them.”

This is the first year that Vineyard Health Care Access will serve as a navigator in the Health Connector program. There were 15 navigators named across the commonwealth in August, an added requirement of the Affordable Care Act. Ms. Kuh’s grant application for the Vineyard was accepted and now the Island will benefit from the outreach, education and enrollment program.

Mr. Madden thanked Ms. Kuh for her efforts on behalf the Island.

“Sarah was one of the first people I met on the Island,” he said, “and the job she does is pretty incredible. She’s a rock on the rock.”

He said Ms. Kuh and her staff can walk Islanders through the health care maze step by step, and by the time they leave they are relieved knowing they have coverage.

For someone like Ms. Brown, having Vineyard Health Care Access to turn to made a tremendous difference.

“I don’t know how in that small office they are able to do everything they do,” Ms. Brown said. “You can bring your kids, they have toys for them to play with while you’re at your appointment. They are such an important resource for the Island. If you had to go over to Hyannis for this it would be such a pain. If they ever needed support and if I had a surplus of cash, I’d go there and give it to them, they are so valuable.”

“That’s what we’re here for,” Ms. Kuh said, “to help you apply and enroll and help figure out how to pay premiums. And there’s the education piece after you fill out the application, it’s understanding the implications of the form and how you use it.”

Ms. Kuh said she would encourage everyone to find out whether or not they may qualify for some subsidy regarding their health care coverage premiums. Especially if you are paying greater than 9.5 per cent of your income for your health insurance plan.

“I encourage people to check,” she said. “We use modified adjusted gross income and sometimes people don’t know that they are eligible for help paying for their health insurance. It’s better to come in and go over it. Sometimes people are paying way more than they can afford.”

Ms. Hague stressed that even if you receive health insurance through your employer, you may still qualify for help paying your portion of the premium. “Maybe you are eligible to save $50 off your monthly premium. It’s still a savings.”

To allow the community to ask questions and set up appointments, Vineyard Health Care Access is hosting an open house on Saturday, Nov. 15, from noon to 2 p.m. For information, call 508-696-0020.