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Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act puts consumers back in charge of their health care. Under the law, a new “Patient’s Bill of Rights” gives the American people the stability and flexibility they need to make informed choices about their health.

Read the full law here

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Technical glitches affected the healthcare.gov system again Monday morning.  It impacted people trying to meet the deadline to enroll for coverage.

Since October, Family First Health, on George Street, in York, has helped more than 1000 people with their insurance coverage.  Nearly 350 applicants have enrolled here under the Affordable Care Act.

Family First Chief Executive Officer, Jenny Englerth says three navigators help enroll six people at a time on the healthcare.gov website.  Englerth says her team is prepared to help with last-minute questions.

She says, “People need insurance, they’re concerned about affordability and about understanding the insurance plans. Sometimes people haven’t been insured for years and are not familiar with systems involved.”

Englerth says if you don’t sign up by midnight, you could face a $95 penalty.  Plus, you won’t be able to apply again until November 15th.

 

The clock is winding down.  The deadline to sign up for the Affordable Care Act is midnight.  The White House now says as long as you start signing up on healthcare.gov by midnight tonight you’ll have until next Monday to complete the process.  Administration officials say more than 6 million have already enrolled. Even as open enrollment comes to an end, many republicans are still trying to repeal it.

National & World News
03/27/14

Healthcare.gov tops 6 million signups

Tami Luhby, NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — More than 6 million people have signed up for healthcare on Healthcare.gov, as a crush of people raced to get health insurance before the March 31 deadline.

Administration officials announced the milestone Thursday amid an intense outreach drive. There were more than 1.5 million visits to HealthCare.gov and more than 430,000 calls to the call centers on Wednesday.

Those who’ve started the application by next Monday but are unable to finish because of technical issues will receive more time to complete the process, officials have said.

Reaching 6 million is a symbolic victory for the Obama administration following the botched launch in October.

The Congressional Budget Office most recently estimated 6 million Americans would enroll in healthcare on Healthcare.gov in 2014, down from its initial 7 million projection.

The administration did not release a specific enrollment target, but adopted the CBO’s figure as a goal.

But just how many people fully enroll in the program this year remains to be seen. The latest figures reflect those picking plans, not paying their premiums. Only those who pay their first month’s premium are considered enrolled, while those who don’t pay have their policy selections canceled.

Insurers have said that the share of people sending in payments is in the 80% range.

The deadline to sign up for individual health insurance is March 31st, and if you don’t have it by then, the government will impose a penalty fee.

The fee is $95 per adult– or 1% or your annual income– whichever is higher. It will be taken out of your 2014 tax return.

Family First Health in York alone has fielded hundreds of questions about avoiding the penalty. Some low-income clients have been disappointed to find out they can’t afford coverage under the Affordable Care Act.”It’s terrifying because I know that I have health problems and I can’t afford to go take care of them,” says Holly Weir, a Spring Grove, York County resident. “I’m going to be financially penalized if I don’t sign up, but yet I can’t afford to sign up.”
She lost her job at a grocery store last year, so she’s now collecting unemployment benefits. Pennsylvania did not renew its Medicaid program, so that puts her into a coverage gap.
“A lot of people have said, ‘Well, I will take the penalty,'” says patient navigator Arlene Feliciano. “But they don’t realize that it’s going to go up.”
There are several hardship exemptions you can claim. Weir qualifies for the lower-income, “unaffordable” exemption. Some apply to victims of domestic violence, or those who paid to care for an elderly or sick relative. A full list can be found here.
But the details of the exemptions aren’t clear, even to the patient navigators.
“Unaffordability, when their income does not allow them to afford healthcare insurance through the marketplace,” says Feliciano says of Weir’s eligible exemption. Of other exemptions, she says, “We don’t know much about it how they’re going to determine the hardship, and how much money you’ve spent or if you can afford it or not we are not sure how that’s going to, how they’re going to determine that yet.”
Weir chose not to file for the exemption. She’s felt the sting of going without healthcare– after a recent ER visit cost her $10,000 for one night. She hopes for help from family to pay the insurance premiums.
“I need healthcare coverage, I need to be protected, I’m getting older things are going to fall apart,” says Weir. “And I need the healthcare and the system as its set up now, doesn’t help me, I fall between the cracks.”

Volunteer fire companies across the country are breathing a sigh of relief, after learning over the weekend that they will be exempt from an Affordable Care Act mandate requiring them to provide health insurance to their members.

Though staffed with volunteers, many community fire companies have a lot of costs to cover.

“You’re looking at fuel costs, in the winter heating the building, building maintenance,” said Chad Livelsberger, chief of Wrightsville Fire and Rescue.

Under the act, companies with at least 50 employees must provide health insurance to those who work 30 hours or more per week. For tax purposes, the Internal Revenue Service considers volunteer firefighters employees.

“A lot of them struggle to pay just to operate and training and equipment and there’s no way they, we could afford to pay healthcare to our members,” said Chief Mark Simpson, of the Camp Hill Volunteer Fire Company.

Just last week, U.S. Representative Lou Barletta, R-11th District, introduced the “Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act” to exempt volunteer fire companies from the employer mandate.

“This wrinkle in the Affordable Care Act will not provide healthcare to the uninsured, it will only shutdown fire companies and cause a severe threat to public safety,” he said, as he introduced his bill on the House floor.

On Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced volunteer fire departments will be exempt from the requirement. It’s a move that Congressman Barletta and many volunteer fire chiefs say will keep companies from having to close or cut down on members.

In a statement, Mark J. Mazur, assistant secretary for tax policy at the U.S. Treasury, said that the department will release regulations for volunteer fire companies to follow regarding the policy shortly.

You can read the Treasury Department’s full statement here.

Have you signed up for coverage on Healthcare.gov in the past few months?

If you have, chances are you may not be covered — at least according to the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare.

The exact number of those affected in Pennsylvania could be in the thousands, and even more nationwide.

The Department of Public Welfare put out a notice on New Year’s Eve, warning people that even though they signed up for health care, they may not be covered.

The department says the federal government was supposed to transfer the 25,000 approved files between October 1st and December 24th, electronically to the state.

“The way that this account transfer was set up was so that there would be seamless transfer of the information, a one stop shop, you go to healthcare.gov, you sign up, and it comes to your state directly,” says Kait Gills, with the Department of Public Welfare.

But it didn’t go as planned.

“It’s a technical glitch in the website that they’re working on and we’re working with them to ensure that this doesn’t happen for much longer,” says Gills.

Exactly how long it will take to fix is unknown.

Kait Gills says the department added extra staff to answer the 1,000 calls they’ve already received in the past week.

And, the main concern?

People ask, “am I covered for a doctor’s visit if the website already told me I’m eligible”?

“If you receive a bill and you thought you were covered, it will be retroactively covered,” says Gills.

Gills says the best way to check if you’ve been approved is by calling the Department of Public Welfare at 866-550-4355.

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On New Year’s Eve, Supreme Court Justice  Sonia Sotomayor issued a last-minute healthcare exemption, just hours before the controversial Affordable Care Act mandates went into effect.

The order gives a temporary exemption to two Catholic nonprofits. The charities filed a lawsuit objecting to the contraception mandate because of their religious and moral beliefs. The Justice said the two groups will be exempted until Friday, when the federal government must respond to the lawsuit.

The biggest from the law taking effect in 2014 requires adults without insurance to pay a penalty. The annual fee this year is either $95 or 1% of the family income. But the penalty fee will increase each year after this one (read more on the healthcare.gov web site). You must enroll in a health insurance plan by March 31st to avoid the penalty, although you can also file for an exemption.

Local healthcare navigators are staying busy, helping to sign people up for insurance plans by the December 23rd deadline, so that they’ll be covered by January 1.

Southeast Lancaster Health Services has an enrollment office in Lancaster.

Outreach and enrollment coordinator Daniel Sosa said his office has had a lot of appointments in the past two weeks with people wanting to enroll in healthcare plans.

“Today’s an important deadline, but it’s not the ultimate deadline,” he said. “Some people think that this is the day, but it’s not really the day. We keep going into the new year and into the next few months, so there’s still plenty of time for people to find a plan that is good for them.”

Southeast Lancaster Health Services’ enrollment assistance is free of charge, you just have to make an appointment. You can call 717-917-3756 or 717-847-3442 to learn more.

The Obama Administration, has reportedly extended the deadline to sign-up for Affordable Care Act coverage by 24 hours.  Coverage begins January 1, 2014. The orginal deadline was midnight tonight, the new deadline is midnight on Christmas Eve.

To read more click here.

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