Post Health Care Deadline, Officials Say More Than 7 Million Enrolled

As the March 31st deadline for Americans to enroll in health care has come and gone, early estimates indicate that more than 7 million Americans successfully signed up for coverage, despite problems and long wait times.

Sherry Hay, UNC Family Medicine Director of Community Health Initiatives, says her department and community partners have been working to help locals sign up for health care since open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act began on October 1 of last year.

On Monday, Hay says UNC Family Medicine was still taking calls and answering people’s questions about enrolling for health care.

“Through the month of March, we tried to do a variety of events— some more global type of community events with other partners such as UNC General Internal Medicine and others in the community, to scheduling patients around their medical appointments here at family medicine to see a certified application counselor,” Hay says.

The last-minute rush before Monday’s midnight deadline was a headache for some, as people reported call wait times of more than two hours and constant glitches with the HealthCare.gov website. Such problems have plagued the system since its debut.

“During these tight times when we are all dependent on the system, it is really frustrating, and people were frustrated by that when it didn’t operate as it should,” Hay says.

Still, federal officials estimated that about 2 million Americans were able to successfully enroll in the two weeks leading up to the deadline.

According to data released in February, Hay says it was estimated that more than 200,000 North Carolinians had enrolled through the federal health care exchanges.

In 2013, 1.5 million people in North Carolina were uninsured.

“It has been an interesting change in healthcare, one of the biggest in decades. There was no state agency that was necessarily deemed the agency to be responsible for the change,” Hay says.

All people, with few exceptions, are required to have health insurance. People who are already covered by health insurance through a private provider are not required to change coverage.

Citizens who can afford health insurance but did not purchase it by the March 31 deadline will be fined $95.

However, the enrollment period has been extended for those who began the application but were unable to finish.

“The Obama Administration did release that if someone had started the process by midnight [on March 31st], they will have until April 15th to complete the application process,” she says.

Now that this open enrollment period has ended, Hay says UNC Family Medicine and its partners will regroup, assess what went well and what didn’t in helping to get people signed up and focus on the next open enrollment, which begins in November and runs through February of 2015.

http://chapelboro.com/news/national/post-health-care-deadline-officials-say-7-million-enrolled/

Gender May Be Key To ACA Impact On Small Biz

How is the Affordable Care Act affecting small business owners in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area?

The answer may depend on the gender of the workers they employ.

That, at least, is the tentative finding of a survey of local business owners conducted by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce.

When asked how the Affordable Care Act was impacting them, 30.5 percent responded “negatively” or “very negatively,” while 23.9 percent responded “positively” or “very positively.” (The rest—not quite half—were either unaffected or unsure.)

But Chamber president Aaron Nelson says a closer look at the responses reveals something interesting.

“Some of that is about the neutralizing of men and women, (who) cost differently in the old world and cost the same now,” he says. “So if you had a predominantly younger female staff, your rates likely go down – (but) with a predominantly male staff…your rates could go up. So gender has had a real impact on cost.”

Nelson says auto body shops, in particular, have reported their health care costs going up—while the Chamber itself, with a mostly-female staff, has seen its costs decline.

Chamber economic briefing ACA slide

Additional results from the survey are available at www.slideshare.net/carolinachamber/2014-economic-outlook-briefing (also the source of this image). As seen here, there’s only a slight lean towards the ACA having a “negative” effect if severity is not taken into account, but that changes if severity is considered: a far greater percentage of respondents reported a “very negative” effect than a “very positive” effect.

Nelson presented the results of the survey at last week’s annual Economic Outlook Briefing at the Sheraton Chapel Hill.

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/gender-may-key-aca-impact-small-biz/

This Weekend In OC: Arts! Concerts! Tax Relief?

With tax season officially upon us, Orange County is once again offering the RSVP-VITA tax preparation service for low- to middle-income residents in need of assistance this year.

“VITA” is short for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance. It’s a free program sponsored by the IRS. It begins in February in Orange and Chatham Counties.

You can find out if you’re eligible and make appointments either online or by phone. Visit OrangeCountyNC.gov/aging/VITA.asp, or to make an appointment by phone, call:

Orange County: 919.245.4242 (English)
Orange County:  919.245.2010 (Spanish)
Compass Center for Women and Families: 919.968.4610 (English only)
Chatham County: 919.542.4512 (Angel Dennison)
Chatham County: 919.742.1448 (Spanish)

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From now through March, the Hillsborough Arts Council is offering walking tours of the town’s sculptures. The guided tour is called “Take A Closer Look”; it will focus on four of the six sculptures that have been on display since last April.

Tours begin at the Hillsborough Arts Council Gallery on N. Churton Street, at 1:00 p.m. every Friday and Saturday. The tours are free (though donations are accepted), and they last one to one and a half hours.

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This weekend brings the third annual “Mixed Concrete” art auction to Chapel Hill, with proceeds to benefit Habitat for Humanity. Featuring local artists working with a variety of materials, the show runs from Friday to Sunday, January 24-26, at TRU Deli + Wine Bar on the corner of Rosemary and Henderson. There will be an opening reception on Friday at 7:00 p.m.

To see some of the art online or to donate to the cause, visit MixedConcrete.org.

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If you’re still unsure about the new federal Health Insurance Marketplace, UNC Family Medicine is holding a “Health Insurance Enroll-A-Thon” on Saturday, January 25, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Officials will be on hand to answer questions and help you enroll.

The event will take place in the UNC Family Medicine Center at 590 Manning Drive. For more information or to schedule an appointment, visit UNCFamilyMedicine.org.

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The Orange County main library in Hillsborough is hosting an exhibition of folk art from January 24-March 24. It’s called “Road Trip: Folk Art from Mike’s Art Truck”—and it’s comprised of 20 pieces all created by self-taught artists.

Curators Greg and Karen Mack of Hillsborough will be on hand for a reception at the library on Saturday, February 1, from 2-5 p.m.

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Orange County’s Department on Aging and the Friends of the Seymour Center are inviting you to attend a Celebration Concert honoring the memory of Pearl Seymour on Saturday, January 25.

The concert will take place at 3:00 p.m. at the Seymour Center on Homestead Road; admission is free. Immediately following the concert, there will be a reception and a silent auction, with proceeds going to benefit the Department on Aging and the Friends of the Seymour Center.

For more information about the concert, visit FriendsSeymourCenter.org.

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Saturday, January 25, you’re invited to a free performance of actor Mike Wiley’s “Dar He: The Story of Emmett Till” at 2:00 p.m. in the Chapel Hill Public Library. The performance is co-presented by the library and the UNC Program in the Humanities, part of a community dialogue on the legacy of Jim Crow and its impact today.

There will be an audience discussion following the performance.

http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-time/weekend-oc-arts-concerts-tax-relief/

Rep. Price Sees Progress In Affordable Care Act Sign Up Process

CHAPEL HILL – Open enrollment for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act began on October 1, but many people have been dissatisfied with the sign-up process online.

The health care website has had a number of problems over the past month that have made signing up challenging, but Congressman David Price says that the health care website is going to be a valuable asset to many people.

“Many people are going to be depending on this and I’m confident that we will get it right, (though) I think the website problems are of course very regrettable,” Price says.

Although accessing the website has been difficult, people can visit the Piedmont Health Center in Carrboro to sign up, or even call the 24-hour hotline at 1-800-318-2596.  Price says many people are working hard to get the website running right.

“We’ve got to get this website running and they’re working on it day and night. Reports I have had are that people are now getting through and that its improving day by day,” Prices states.

The Affordable Care Act website is only one of the concerns in Washington right now.  Budget talks have begun in Congress and Price says there are many issues that will need to be reviewed.

“What are going to do about the fact that our tax code simply doesn’t pay our way? What about the long term future of entitlement programs like Medicare, social security? asks Price. “And what about the overly severe sequestration cuts, across the board cuts, that have already occurred?”

For more information about the Affordable Care Act, click here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/national/affordable-care-actsigning-up/

Health Care Signup Begins

CHICAGO – Millions of Americans will be able to shop for the first time today on the insurance marketplaces that are at the heart of President Barack Obama’s health care reforms.

The market places are opening in all 50 states, and the Obama administration hopes to sign up 7 million people during the first year.

The partial government shutdown will have no immediate effect on the insurance marketplaces because they operate with money that’s not subjected to the annual federal budget.

 

CHAPEL HILL – Sherry Hay, Director of Community Health Initiatives at UNC Family Medicine, says shopping in the marketplace will be similar to shopping for groceries at a supermarket.

“It’s just like looking at what items you would like to buy to feed your family. You can do that with health plans,” Hay says. “You can look at them side by side, and judge the benefits, the costs, and also see if you’re eligible for financial help.”

***Listen to the Interview***

Open enrollment ends March 31, 2014. Shoppers have until then to decide what plan they feel is best for them and their families.

Hay says there are some changes she feels Americans will be excited about.

“If you have a medical or pre-existing condition, you can get health coverage,” Hay says. “You will not be denied for that, as you were in the past.”

All Americans, with the exception of an exempt few, will be required to have health insurance.

Americans who can afford health insurance, but do not wish to purchase it will be charged a fine. There is financial aid available to eligible consumers. But not everyone has to purchase insurance through the federal marketplace.

If you already have health insurance through a private provider, you are not required to switch to the federal pool.

”It’s really important just to begin looking, and thinking, and pulling your information together,” Hay says. “The important thing is to really take charge and empower yourself.”

For more information about the healthcare marketplace, you can visit www.healthcare.gov.

 

http://chapelboro.com/news/health/health-care-signup-begins/

National Nursing Assistant’s Week

This week I am reminded of those often 4.5 million unsung frontline caregivers that provide hands-on care to our country’s frail, elderly, or chronically challenged in hospitals, private homes and other long term care settings.  These heroes go by various titles such as nursing assistants, nurse aides, care assistants or in-home aides.  However, they all have one thing in common, and that is their key role in promoting and safeguarding the physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual well-being of the residents, clients, and families they serve.
 
Did You Know June 16-20 is Nursing Assistant’s Week?

June 16th began the
nationwide observance of Nursing Assistant’s Week to provide us an opportunity to recognize and thank those individuals who provide this important role in our health care system.  Our nation’s nursing assistants have chosen an occupation that offers them low pay, little recognition and most often, physically and emotionally demanding work…for what?  If you ask them, it is because that was what they were called to do; to provide comfort, care and show compassion to those they serve.  As a nursing home administrator, a registered nurse and American, I salute these men and women.  The wellbeing and happiness of our most vulnerable citizens depend in large part on nursing assistants who provide daily, conscientious, hands-on care.
 
I urge everyone in joining me in celebrating this week of national observance of Nursing Assistants and to express appreciation and gratitude for the service performed by these caregivers in the public good.
 
Guest Author: Doug Oliver, RN, LNHA
http://chapelboro.com/columns/enjoy-life/national-nursing-assistants-week/