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Today is National Voter Registration Day!

Today, September 25th, we celebrate National Voter Registration Day. National Voter Registration Day is a day of action before state deadlines begin in October. Last year, millions of Americans didn’t vote because they missed a registration deadline or didn’t know how to register.

This upcoming Midterm elections are especially important for Nebraska. On November 6th, Nebraskans will be asked to vote on Initiative 427, which can expand Medicaid to an estimated 90,000 low-income Nebraskans and provide health coverage to those that desperately need it.

Medicaid Expansion will have a profound effect on thousands of hard-working Nebraskans who are working desperately to pull themselves out of poverty.  Patients with chronic disease such as diabetes are much more likely to have their conditions under control if they have health insurance.   Moreover, they are more likely to have serious diseases diagnosed earlier so treatment can begin sooner.  Expanding Medicaid will ensure families get access to preventative care, leading to overall improved well-being and avoiding costly trips to the emergency room.  A recent study of Medicaid Expansion in Ohio, conducted by The Ohio Department of Medicaid, found that emergency room utilization decreased 17%, 37% of smokers enrolled in the expansion program were able to quit, and 97% of those with an opioid addiction received treatment.

So, this National Voter Registration Day, I encourage you to get registered to vote. If you recently moved, turned 18, changed your name, or haven’t voted in recent elections, you need to update your voter registration!  All it takes is 30 seconds to register to vote online at  https://nationalvoterregistrationday.org/.

And when it comes time to vote on November 6th, I encourage you to vote FOR Initiative 427. Everyone deserves the peace of mind that comes with having access to health insurance.

 

By: Angela Lindstrom

Integrated Marketing Director

HCAN

Envolve Vision Van returns to Nebraska!

The Envolve Vision Van stopped in Omaha and Lincoln, June 21st and 22nd, providing 108 Nebraskans with FREE vision screenings, and access to prescription and/or reading glasses. The “SeeMore” Vision Van, a collaboration between Envolve and the Association of Clinicians for the Underserved (ACU), visited six Nebraska Community Health Centers in the last nine months providing a total of:

  • 395 screenings
  • 294 prescription glasses
  • 92 reading glasses

 

This June, local Optometrists volunteered their time and expertise to screen patients at three Nebraska Community Health Centers. Health center staff organized on-site volunteers, translation services, and any additional support needed to ensure each event ran smoothly. The opportunity to assess patients’ sharpness of vision, need for corrective lenses, and screen for degenerative eye diseases (diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma) showcased the enormous need for vision services within our communities.

 

HCAN is thankful for the Envolve Vision Van and their support of Nebraska Community Health Centers!

 

written by Jenna Thomsen, Director of Training and Technical Assistance

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Giving Days happening in May!

May is here, which means warmer weather is on its way, and school is almost out of session for summer break!  But it also marks the annual kickoff of a very important season of giving  – Nebraska’s Community Giving Days.  During specific days in the month, communities all around the state rally around hundreds of nonprofits to help raise money and awareness for their organizations.  The Giving Days is a 24-hour event where excitement and energy is generated around giving to local organizations.

However, choosing a nonprofit to give to can be intimidating.  Which one do you choose?  This year, we at HCAN would like for you to consider giving to any one of our Nebraska community health centers. In Nebraska, the community health centers served over 94,000 patients last year.  Nebraska’s community health centers ensure that all individuals have access to high-quality medical, dental, and behavioral health care, regardless of ability to pay.   Health centers are the safety net providers in the state, ensuring comprehensive, community-based, culturally appropriate healthcare in a compassionate and respectful environment.

Ninety percent of our patients are low income, and one out of every four uninsured individuals in our state receives care at a health center.  In fact, Nebraska has the second highest rate of uninsured patients across all health centers in the nation, with nearly 50% of our patients lacking health insurance.

When thinking of where you will be donating to this year, please consider giving a donation to any one of the community health centers in Nebraska.  Even the smallest gift can make a big difference to the patients we serve.  Your gift will directly help those vulnerable populations who would otherwise not have access to primary and preventative care.  For many patients, health centers may be the only source of health care services available in their community. You have a chance with your donation to make a powerful, yet critical difference in many lives.

During the month of May and the Giving Days to come, please take a moment to find your community’s Giving Day at http://www.nonprofitam.org/?page=GivingDays and choose one of Nebraska’ community health centers. Your donation is appreciated!

-Angela Lindstrom

Integrated Marketing Director

Health Center Association of Nebraska

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The Open Enrollment concert rocked!

The Certified Application Counselors (CACs) and other assisters throughout the state of Nebraska rocked Open Enrollment 5! The concert was executed smoothly with a nice balance of lights to complement the music.

How many consumers enrolled?

This year, 88,213 Nebraskans signed up for health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Why is this a big deal?  Take a look at the enrollment numbers for previous years and you can see why assisters are rejoicing.

 

For 2018 coverage:   88,213   5th open enrollment   November 1, 2017 – December 15, 2017

For 2017 coverage:   84,371   4th open enrollment    November 1, 2016 – January 31, 2017

For 2016 coverage:   87,835   3rd open enrollment    November 1, 2015 – January 31, 2016

For 2015 coverage:   74,152   2nd open enrollment   November 15. 2014 – February 15, 2015

For 2014 coverage:   63,776   1st open enrollment    October 1, 2013 – March 31, 2014

Note: CMS started to report state-level plan selection figures after January 9, 2015.

 

All hands were on deck to help spread the word about open enrollment. I probably annoyed many people by using my personal social media platforms to educate those I know. What was enlightening to me were the stories shared by individuals who were able to find affordable health insurance.

On Healthcare.gov, there was a tool that allowed consumers to explore the plans offered in their state. While many of the prices listed were high, many consumers were surprised by how affordable a plan was for them once they completed an application and were able to see what tax credits and/or cost sharing reductions they received.

In fact, many consumers were able to receive free health insurance. That’s right – many qualified for free plans based upon their income.

So, as I stated before, the assisters in Nebraska rocked hard. Fans at the concert enjoyed the performance, especially the epic encore.

To everyone that helped ensure a successful concert…..Great work! We did it.

 

 

 

 

-Keshia Bradford, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Health Center Association of Nebraska

 

 

*https://www.cms.gov/Newsroom/MediaReleaseDatabase/Fact-sheets/2017-Fact-Sheet-items/2017-12-28.html?DLPage=1&DLEntries=10&DLSort=0&DLSortDir=descending
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Open Enrollment 5 – Only 10 more days to sign up for health insurance!

Get Ready for a Performance of a Lifetime!

The crowd is ready…

The performers take the stage…

The curtain goes up…

The performers play and the crowd goes wild!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s how I think about the outreach and enrollment staff at the health centers. They practice (train) for the Open Enrollment and once it begins, all that practice (training) begins to take hold.

How is Open Enrollment going?

Rockin’! Open enrollment is going very well. Signing up has been going well for many consumers and Certified Application Counselors (CACs) at the health centers. Despite the lack of advertising funding used to promote Healthcare.gov and reduced number of trained assisters, more consumers are signing up for health insurance plans than expected. Each week, we are seeing enrollment numbers climbing higher. In fact, enrollment numbers this year are higher than in years past based upon the same number of days into Open Enrollment. In Nebraska we have enrolled 32,759 from November 1st to November 25th.

Counselors from the health centers have reported that many consumers have been shocked by how affordable their health insurance has been. For many, qualifying for the tax credits has helped tremendously lower their monthly payments.

There have even been a few consumers remark how nervous they were about how much their insurance was going to be until they were able to see for themselves how affordable their plan was.

Health center CACs are seeing their schedules bustling with appointments and walk-ins. We still have a couple weeks before Open Enrollment ends (December 15th). We are anxiously awaiting the final enrollment numbers.

In other words, the performers are in the middle of their set. The crowd is enthusiastically reacting to the music.

Will there be an encore after the final set? Stay tuned.

 

-Keshia Bradford, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Health Center Association of Nebraska

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Time to Rock Enrollments

 

 

 

 

 

What does rock have to do with enrollments? Everything. Yes, everything. Hear me out.

Background

Here at HCAN, I have been rocking out to new information at the federal level and providing updates to the Certified Application Counselors (CACs) in a timely manner. Back in September, there was a 1½ day rock concert (training) filled with a variety of sessions that complemented the required federal CAC training. Since the concert, weekly updates have become more important as new information becomes available.

New information

Examples of information that has been shared:
• 2018 Open Enrollment begins November 1st and ends December 15th 2017- only 45 days long.
• Affordable Care Act (ACA) is still the law.
• Tax penalties still exist. Depending on income, you can be subject to a fine of $695 or 2.5% of your income, whichever is greater.
• Medica is the only insurance company in Nebraska offering plans on the Health Insurance Marketplace.
• Eligibility for premium tax credits and Cost Sharing Reductions (CSRs) to lower out of pocket costs hasn’t changed. Even if the administration stops making CSR payments to insurance companies, consumers will still receive these reductions.

Rock and Enrollments do go together

As I mentioned earlier, there has been a lot of rocking going on in preparation of Open Enrollment. So much rocking took place, that enrolling time is almost here. CACs across the state of Nebraska will rock enrollments in the coming weeks.

Need more proof? Here is proof that rock enrollments go together: Nebraska coalition video.

If you know of anyone that needs health insurance, have them visit healthcare.gov or contact a Nebraska health center today. Help us rock enrollments!

-Keshia Bradford, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Health Center Association of Nebraska

HCAN CEO addresses the Health Center Funding Cliff

Healthcare has dominated much of the political and public debate in the last twelve months.  Repeal, replace, subsidies, CSRs, who’s in and who’s out of the Marketplace, how many insurers are in a given county.  With the introduction of the Graham-Cassidy bill last week, there is one more attempt to fundamentally change how healthcare is paid for and delivered.  However, there is a critical part of the healthcare debate that is receiving little attention – and time is running out.

 

For over 50 years, Federally Qualified Health Centers, or community health centers, have provided comprehensive, community based, medical, dental and behavioral health care to everyone, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay.   During those 50 years, health centers have received strong bipartisan support, and have grown to serve nearly 26 million people nationwide.  Funded through a combination of federal dollars, foundation grants, and patient revenues, health centers are a cost-effective source of care delivery.  Without Congressional action by September 30th, 70% of that federal funding will end, putting health centers and the patients they serve in jeopardy.

 

In Nebraska, our seven health centers served nearly 85,000 patients last year.  Ninety percent of our patients are low income, and one out of every four uninsured individuals in our state receives care at a health center.  In fact, Nebraska has the second highest rate of uninsured patients across all health centers in the nation, with 50% of our patients lacking health insurance.  The very funding that is at risk at the federal level is intended to care for this population and is at the core of the health center mission.  If Congress fails to act, Nebraska health centers will lose $13.2 million dollars.  Most importantly, our patients will lose access to critical services.  Loss of funding will result in reduced hours, staff eliminations, and reduction of services and clinic locations, forcing patients to access more expensive emergency room visits or forego care all together.

 

Health centers are a key component of the health care delivery system in Nebraska.  In some rural areas, we are the only provider accepting new Medicaid patients.  Patients travel hundreds of miles round-trip to visit a health center because they cannot access care anywhere else.  Our dental clinics have three to six month waiting lists because of the need for access to care.  Now is not the time to put funding at risk.

 

With all of the noise surrounding health care, it is critical that the health center funding cliff receive the attention it so desperately needs.  Congress must act before September 30th.  Access to care for the most vulnerable among us is at risk.

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New Special Enrollment Confirmation Process Announced

On February 24, 2016, CMS announced a new Special Enrollment Confirmation Process.

Once the new Special Enrollment Confirmation Process is implemented, all consumers applying through the most common HealthCare.gov special enrollment periods (SEPs) will be directed to submit documentation to verify their eligibly to use an SEP. CMS will then review the documents to ensure consumers qualify for an SEP.

On March 4, 2016, CMS updated the Marketplace application by:

  • Adding New Attestation Language: New language requires consumers to attest that they understand they may be asked to provide additional information, including proof of their eligibility for an SEP, and that, if they do not provide proof of eligibility, they may face penalties including the risk of losing their coverage. This box is on the privacy policy page of the application and must be checked prior to proceeding through a new or updated application and entering information that may qualify the consumer for an SEP.
  • Updates to Loss of Minimum Essential Coverage Questions: Both the recent loss of coverage and future loss of coverage questions have been updated to (1) specify that coverage must have been lost within the past 60 days or will be lost within the next 60 days; (2) provide examples of coverage that qualifies as minimum essential coverage (MEC); and (3) provide a link to a help page that provides a thorough discussion and explanation of MEC. In addition, new blue boxes have been added to clarify that losing coverage due to nonpayment of premiums does not qualify as loss of MEC for purposes of qualifying for this SEP.
  • Updates to the Permanent Move Question: The permanent move question has been updated to specify that the move must have occurred within the last 60 days and provide examples of which situations do and do not qualify as a permanent move for purposes of qualifying for this SEP.

Additionally, CMS updated text on the SEP Screener Tool to reflect these application updates. These application updates will be accompanied by other improvements to the SEP application process, which are described here and are part of the new Special Enrollment Confirmation Process.

Refer to this Fact Sheet for further information on how the Special Enrollment Confirmation Process will work and what else CMS is doing to improve the SEP process.

Marketplace vs. Insurance Company: Where to Report Life Changes

Some consumers may be unsure about where to report their life change or change in circumstance for their Marketplace coverage. Let consumers know that they should always report a life change or change in circumstance directly to the marketplace as soon as possible.

Below are a few examples of changes that must be reported to the Marketplace directly:

Marketplace vs. Insurance

Tax Season Spotlight

NOTE: This version of the assister newsletter revises the Tax Season Spotlight where the hyperlinks to resources were initially defective.

This tax season, the Marketplace and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have told consumers that they must have had Minimal Essential Coverage (MEC) to avoid paying the penalty for the 2015 benefit year. If a consumer didn’t obtain coverage directly from the Marketplace, they may have a hard time figuring out if the coverage they had actually qualifies as MEC, if they qualify for an exemption from the requirement to have coverage, or if they have to pay the penalty. The resources below provides some helpful information to guide consumers through each scenario.

MEC Resources

Exemption Resources

Penalty Resources

As we approach the April 18th deadline, consumers will likely reach out to assisters for help in understanding how health care affects their taxes. While assisters are prohibited from helping consumers with filing their taxes (unless you are also a licensed tax professional), being able to refer a consumer to a tax professional is an excellent way to guide a consumer to the help they need. Where assisters are also licensed tax professionals, they might be in a position to assist clients with the tax filing components of the premium tax credit reconciliation process or claiming exemptions through a tax return, but should keep these duties separate and not perform any tax assistance within their capacity as an assister.