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Healthcare.gov Enrollment Deadline Extended To Dec. 19

Dec 16, 2016
healthcare.gov

The deadline to sign up for Healthcare.gov coverage has been extended to Monday, Dec. 19 at 11:59 p.m. The federal government made the announcement Thursday night, citing a high volume of people who have left requests to get enrolled.

The deadline is for coverage starting Jan. 1. The final deadline is March 1 for coverage starting April 1. The Affordable Care Act allows for a two-month grace period that consumers can go without health insurance and not receive a tax penalty.

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Republicans in Congress say they'll vote to repeal much of the Affordable Care Act early next year — even though they don't yet have a plan to replace it.

But they also insist that they don't want to harm any of the millions of people who got their health insurance under the law.

The lawmakers' strategy? Vote to repeal, and fulfill their top campaign pledge. But delay the changes, and keep running Obamacare for as long as two years while they figure out how to fill the hole they'll create in the insurance market.

Healthcare.gov

More than 30,000 Kentuckians have signed up for health insurance since the state transitioned to the federal exchange on November 1.  Healthcare.gov replaced the state’s previous insurance portal known as Kynect.  This time last year, more than 27,000 Kentuckians had enrolled in coverage, according to state officials. 

Melissa Grimes works for Community Action of Southern Kentucky, which serves 11 counties.  She oversees the assistors who are trained to help enrollees navigate the online process.  Grimes says it’s taking longer to enroll people under the federal exchange.

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More than 8,500 people with expanded Medicaid coverage got breast cancer screenings in May and June of this year. And more people covered under the expansion received dental, diabetes, Hepatitis C and colorectal cancer screenings.

That’s according to a report released Monday by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

In a news release, foundation president and CEO Ben Chandler said one of the benefits of getting more people covered is that they can take advantage of preventive services “that can lead to improved health and lower health care costs in the long run.”

“That positive trend is what we’re seeing in Kentucky in terms of breast and colorectal cancer screenings, preventive dental services and diabetes and Hepatitis C screenings for Kentuckians with low incomes,” Chandler said.

Under the Affordable Care Act, former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear expanded Medicaid in 2014 to childless adults earning up to around $15,000 a year. Gov. Matt Bevin submitted a proposal to the federal government earlier this year to trim back benefits like dental and vision.

Sarah Jane Sanders

Candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup. Those are the four basic food groups according to Buddy the Elf. And this time of year, the gluttonous season, it seems like he is onto something.

But researchers say that mindful eating –choosing quality over quantity and savoring your meals instead of, say, plowing through another pint of Ben & Jerry’s while watching “Westworld” — can make a difference.

That’s especially important because the Ohio Valley has a serious problem. In Ohio more than a quarter of adults are obese. In Kentucky it’s about a third. And in West Virginia, it’s even higher.

 

“For this exercise let’s just go ahead and close our eyes.” University of Kentucky Professor Dr. Geza Bruckner starts his class on Mindful Eating at Lexington Healing Arts.

There are about 20 people in the class, mostly middle aged women, although there are a few men and, as might be expected, some Birkenstocks are in view. The strain shows on their faces as they try to clear their heads and do what should come naturally: breathe.

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For Freida Lockaby, an unemployed 56-year-old woman who lives with her dog in an aging mobile home in Manchester, Ky., one of America's poorest places, the Affordable Care Act was life altering.

The law allowed Kentucky to expand Medicaid in 2014 and made Lockaby – along with 440,000 other low-income state residents – newly eligible for free health care under the state-federal insurance program. Enrollment gave Lockaby her first insurance in 11 years.

"It's been a godsend to me," said the former Ohio school custodian who moved to Kentucky a decade ago.

Lockaby finally got treated for a thyroid disorder that had left her so exhausted she'd almost taken root in her living room chair. Cataract surgery let her see clearly again. A carpal tunnel operation on her left hand eased her pain and helped her sleep better. Daily medications brought her high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol level under control.

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Consumer advocates are advising people to not buy into the name “multi-state” plan when shopping for individual market health insurance for next year because the plans don’t necessarily offer coverage across state lines.

Susan McConkey, a health insurance broker, said many consumers assume “multi-state” means coverage across state lines at in-network prices. But that isn’t true in most states, including Kentucky.

“They think they can use it in any state, and that’s not the case,” McConkey said.

The Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C. was assigned the task of getting insurers to offer these plans because of the agency’s experience managing federal employee health insurance.

Beth Hadley is in charge of multi-state plans at OPM. She acknowledged that the name is misleading, and said the agency is considering changing the name.

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Kentucky has earned the unhealthy distinction of being the fifth “fattest” state in the U.S.  

A report from the consumer website WalletHub shows that only Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and South Carolina have a higher percentage of obese or overweight residents than Kentucky.

The Bluegrass State ranks second in the nation for the number of residents with high cholesterol, fourth for diabetes, and fifth for high blood pressure.

Bonnie Hackbarth is a spokeswoman for the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. She says creating a healthier state starts with consistent health care.

“Part of the answer in improving Kentucky’s health is getting more Kentuckians insured, so that they’ll take advantage of the kind of preventive services that will improve our health overall.”

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Sharon Bush spent 30 minutes on Tuesday helping a client sign up for an email account. The email address is a necessary step in signing up for health insurance through Healthcare.gov.

Bush didn’t realized that the email requirement for the federal exchange would take up so much time.

“In southeastern Kentucky, there are a lot of people who don’t have and/or use technology,” Bush said. “[The client] is a grandmother in her early 60s, and she just said, ‘I have two granddaughters and they use it a lot.’”

Bush works in Manchester, Kentucky, at Grace Community Health Center, where she helps people sign up for health insurance. She’s a former Kynector, a person paid by the state to assist people with enrollment. She helped people last year find health insurance through Kynect and is now helping people sign up on the federal exchange at Healthcare.gov.

In early October, Gov. Matt Bevin was given approval by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to dismantle the state-based insurance portal, Kynect, leaving Kentuckians searching for insurance to go through the federal portal, Healthcare.gov.

Centerstone

Seven Counties Services, Inc. is no more.

The mental health provider announced Monday that it officially merged with not-for-profit Tennessee-based Centerstone and will now be known as Centerstone of Kentucky.

For the coming months, patients won’t see any changes. But in the next two years, Centerstone plans to expand services and do more research.

Centerstone, which started in 1991, offers mental health services in Florida, Illinois, Tennessee, Indiana and now Kentucky. Starting Tuesday, Tony Zipple, president and CEO of Seven Counties, will become CEO of Centerstone of Kentucky.

Zipple said the merger means the local provider will have more resources for services like setting up “health homes” for people with serious mental health and medical conditions.

Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services

Kentuckians trying to get health insurance through the state-based marketplace will use healthcare.gov instead of Kynect starting Nov. 1.

Personal information of those who previously used Kynect to get insurance will not be transferred to the federal platform, so consumers will have to reapply on the federal website.

Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration says the move will save the state about $10 million per year in operating costs.

“Health insurance is a vital piece of maintaining health and well-being,” said Health and Family Services Cabinet Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson in a statement. “We want to make sure Kentuckians interested in purchasing a qualified health plan know where to shop. Anyone with questions or who encounters difficulty with enrollment is encouraged to contact a call center for assistance.”

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Daviess County doctors are treating as many as 500 patients who are suffering from a once-rare allergy.

Alpha-gal syndrome is spread through tick bites, and leads to allergic reactions after the eating of red meat.

Physicians at Owensboro’s Allergy and Asthma Specialists are seeing an explosion in the number of people diagnosed with the allergy.

Physician assistant Caitlyn Renaud says Alpha-gal is different from a regular allergy because of its delayed reaction time.

“People had dinner at, like, 7 o’clock at night and they ate a steak or cheeseburger. And they would wake up in the middle of the night with swelling, hives, and itching,” she said.  

Other symptoms of Alpha-gal syndrome include abdominal cramping and vomiting.

The allergy especially prevalent in the south-east because of the number of ticks found in the region.

Kentuckians in more than half of all counties who buy insurance through HealthCare.gov next year will have a much more limited choice of doctors and hospitals.

That’s because the only insurer left in Kentucky offering exchange plans in all 120 counties — Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield — will only offer an HMO plan in 74 of those counties starting Jan. 1.

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U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth is calling on Gov. Matt Bevin to withdraw his request for a Medicaid waiver, saying that the federal government will never approve it.

Bevin has applied for the waiver to allow Kentucky to charge monthly premiums to Medicaid recipients earning more than $11,880 a year and remove vision and dental coverage, among other changes.

The proposal also includes a ‘rewards’ account that would allow people to earn vision or dental benefits by doing things like volunteering, applying for jobs or earning a GED.

Yarmuth says he’s communicated with officials at Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services and they told him the waiver would not be approved as-is.

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Whether or not your doctor stays in business over the next few years could hinge on their ability to adapt to a new regulation changing how Medicare pays doctors and clinicians.

The game-changing regulation aimed at paying medical providers for quality instead of quantity is known as MACRA. It’s based on legislation passed last year by Congress to overhaul how Medicare pays doctors.

There are two routes medical providers can take: Medical practices can earn higher reimbursements if they learn new ways of doing business. That includes being willing to accept financial risk and reward for performance, reporting quality measures to the government, and using electronic medical records. The majority of medical practices will go this route, according to the Kentucky Medical Association.

Or they can join a network of medical providers and hospitals that shares financial and medical responsibility for providing coordinated care to patients in hopes of limiting unnecessary spending.

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