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CLAYCOMO, Mo. (AP) — President Barack Obama is railing against attempts by, quote, a "faction of the far right" to undermine his health care law.

Obama tells an audience near Kansas City, Missouri quote, "They're focused on trying to mess with me. They're not focused on you."

Obama spoke shortly after the Republican-controlled House voted cut spending for the health care law, as part of a measure to extend current spending into December.

Obama says failure to raise the debt ceiling would send the economy into a tailspin.

Published in Local News
Thursday, 19 September 2013 14:16

HHS Secretary meets with city leaders

The top health official in the nation is in St. Louis to take part in a discussion about the Affordable Care Act.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius met with local and state officials as part of a nationwide push to educate taxpayers about changes coming with Obamacare on Thursday. Part of the ACA calls for an expansion in Medicaid, but the legislature has rejected that proposal.

Sebelius will met with officials at City Hall at 2 PM.

Published in Local News

MIAMI (AP) - Dear seniors, your Medicare benefits aren't changing under the Affordable Care Act. That's the message federal health officials are trying to get out to some older consumers confused by overlapping enrollment periods for Medicare and so-called "Obamacare."

 

   Medicare beneficiaries don't have to do anything differently and will continue to go to Medicare.gov to sign up for plans. But advocates say many have been confused by a massive media blitz directing consumers to new online insurance exchanges set up as part of the federal health law. Many of the same insurance companies are offering coverage for Medicare and the exchanges.

 

   Medicare open enrollment starts Oct. 15 and closes Dec. 7, while enrollment for the new state exchanges for people 65 and under launches Oct. 1 and runs through March.

 

   "Most seniors are not at all informed. Most seniors worry they're going to lose their health coverage because of the law," said Dr. Chris Lillis, a primary care physician in Fredericksburg, Virginia. "I try to speak truth from the exam room but I think sometimes fear dominates."

 

   Next month, roughly 50 million Medicare beneficiaries will get a handbook in the mail with a prominent Q&A that stresses Medicare benefits aren't changing. Federal health officials have also updated their training for Medicare counselors, and are prepping their Medicare call center and website.

 

   "We want to reassure Medicare beneficiaries that they are already covered, their benefits aren't changing, and the marketplace doesn't require them to do anything different," said Julie Bataille, spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

 

   But she said call centers for the state exchanges are already fielding questions from Medicare recipients and rerouting them to the Medicare line.

 

   Bob Roza attended several meetings trying to figure out exactly what the Affordable Care Act means for him and his 69-year-old wife Gail, who has diabetes.

 

   "At that time, I didn't know if Medicare would be secondary to some Affordable Care Act option. It was just a myriad of concerns and not knowing," said the 72-year-old Roza, a retiree who lives in Oakdale, Calif., and is recovering from hip replacement surgery earlier this year.

 

   He now knows that his Medicare coverage won't change, but says he's now worried about the impact on the $614 a month he pays for Medicare supplemental insurance. Federal health officials said seniors will not be able to purchase Medicare supplemental insurance or Part D drug plans through the state exchanges.

 

   Jodi Reid, executive director of the California Alliance for Retired Americans, worries there hasn't been enough outreach to seniors and that advocacy groups are spending the bulk of their advertising funds targeting those impacted by the exchange. Her organization, which represents nearly 1 million seniors in California, is putting together a one-page fact sheet to help dispel myths.

 

   "Nothing has been done that I have seen to deal with the 4.4 million people in California who are on Medicare who are not going to be impacted the same way as the rest of us so it's causing a lot of confusion," she said.

 

   AARP officials said they anticipate a spike in calls after the October launch date for the new state exchanges. To help clarify everything for seniors, the organization is holding various events around the country, such as a senior day next month at the state fair in Columbia, S.C. Next month, the group is also hosting 21 telephone town halls, which will include hundreds of thousands of phone calls to seniors.

 

   "Usually the marketing is just targeted to the Medicare beneficiary, this time it's going to be spread out a little bit more. If they call the wrong places, we're doing our very best to make sure they're guided back to the correct place," said Nicole Duritz, vice president of health education.

 

   In Illinois, it's not only seniors who are confused, but also the social workers who help them, said Erin Weir of AgeOptions, suburban Cook County's lead agency on aging. The agency coordinates a statewide training program for groups that work with older adults.

 

   During these trainings, Weir said, she's repeatedly heard questions from social workers who think seniors will be able to sign up for Medicare programs on the new marketplace websites, even though they cannot.

 

   "We've been focusing on people who are already on Medicare, calming them down and saying, `You don't have to do anything, you're fine,"' Weir said.

 

   Advocates are also warning of scams that may pop up alongside legitimate door-to-door outreach about the Affordable Care Act ramps up and advising seniors not to give out personal information.

 

   Senior groups are also devoting resources to educating the 50- to 65-year-old group who are next in line for Medicare, a segment that could be greatly affected by the health reform. Under the new law, insurers will have to offer more benefits in some cases and are restricted in how much they can charge older, sicker people. They're also banned from turning away those with pre-existing conditions.

 

   Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, said many people nearing retirement age stand to benefit the most by the health care reform.

 

   "They're the ones most likely to have pre-existing conditions, most likely to be charged more because of their age and medical condition and very likely to be an early retiree," he said.

Published in National News
Wednesday, 21 August 2013 14:27

Affordable Care Act jobs headed to Illinois

CHICAGO (AP) - Illinois is building an 800-person army of temporary workers to help people sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

The "in-person counselor" jobs are located in every corner of the state, and range from a $9-an-hour part-time evening job in Clinton County to a $45,000-a-year project coordinator position in Chicago.

The workers will help consumers apply for coverage, answer questions and explain differences between the insurance policies offered on the new online marketplace.

Applications for the jobs are being collected online and anyone hired will get three days of training about health insurance, enrollment rules and other complicated aspects of the health law. Illinois must act quickly to be ready for Oct. 1, the first day of enrollment for the law's new insurance opportunities.

Published in Local News

WASHINGTON (AP) — Three years after campaigning on a vow to "repeal and replace" President Barack Obama's health care law, House Republicans have yet to advance an alternative for the system they have voted more than three dozen times to abolish in whole or in part.

Officially, the effort is "in progress" — and has been since Jan. 19, 2011. That's according to GOP.gov, a leadership-run website.

But internal divisions, disagreement about political tactics and Obama's 2012 re-election add up to uncertainty over whether Republicans will vote on a plan of their own before the 2014 elections.

Or, if not by then, perhaps before the president leaves office, more than six years after the original promise.

Sixteen months before the midterm elections, some Republicans cite no need to offer an alternative.

Published in National News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The Illinois Senate has approved a measure that would create a state-governed "insurance exchange" so individuals and small businesses can shop for health care coverage as required by President Obama's health law.

Lawmakers voted Thursday 37-19 to send the House a bill establishing the Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace.

The exchange will guide people through the purchase of health and dental plans. It will also help qualified businesses enroll employees in health insurance plans.

The Affordable Care Act requires that nearly all Americans have health insurance beginning in 2014 or pay a penalty. New marketplaces are scheduled to be operating by October.

Illinois will begin an exchange this year through a federal partnership. Gov. Pat Quinn hopes to establish a state-run marketplace for 2015.

 

Published in Local News
Saturday, 13 April 2013 08:04

Medicare premiums to rise for more seniors

WASHINGTON (AP) — Feeling pretty comfortable in retirement?

Here's something to think about: President Barack Obama's budget would raise Medicare premiums for individual retirees making more than $85,000 and couples making more than $170,000.

It would also freeze the indexing for inflation of those income thresholds, so eventually 1 in 4 retirees will have to pay more. Right now only about 1 in 20 pays the higher rate.

The higher premiums surprised a retired city worker from Albuquerque, Sheila Pugach.

She says she's paying about $500 a year more in premiums for Medicare outpatient and drug coverage, all because required withdrawals from her retirement savings bumped her into a higher income bracket.

Republicans like Obama's idea, so Pugach could soon have more company.

Published in National News
Page 3 of 3

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