Health

DC Health Link to Hold Health Fair, Open Enrollment

The Affordable Care Act — or Obamacare — remains in effect despite President Donald Trump’s recent string of actions to undermine the law and discourage enrollment for 2018.

Locally, the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority Executive Board announced that it had adopted an unanimous recommendation from its Standing Advisory Board to allow a special enrollment period for District residents to sign up for health insurance coverage from Dec. 16 through Jan. 31.

The action effectively provides residents a three-month open enrollment period of Nov. 1 through Jan. 31, with the same calendar days and amount of time to enroll as last year’s open enrollment period, according to a news release.

Notably, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final Insurance Market Stability regulation in April that shortens the upcoming enrollment period for HealthCare.gov to six weeks — Nov. 1 through Dec. 15.

CMS recognized that state-based marketplaces may want to have longer enrollment opportunities for their residents, officials said in a statement.

Recognizing that a three month open enrollment period works best for District residents, the HBX Executive Board adopted this recommendation from its Standing Advisory Board.

“Our first priority is protecting every opportunity for District residents to obtain affordable health insurance,” said Diane C. Lewis, chair of the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority Executive Board. “The stabilization regulations provide state-based marketplaces this necessary flexibility, and an enrollment period from Nov. 1, 2017, through Jan. 31, 2018, is what we’ve planned for, what our customers expect, and what will work best for District residents.”

To that end, and to kick off the open enrollment period, DC Health Link will host an enrollment day and health fair on Saturday, Nov. 4 at 11 a.m. at the Shaw Neighborhood Library (1630 7th Street NW).

Officials promise onsite enrollment, free expert assistance, health screenings, children and family activities, Zumba, Yoga, local entertainment and refreshments.

Earlier this month, Trump signed an executive order crafted to open up the health insurance marketplace to barely there plans that may leave people living with pre-existing conditions, like HIV and AIDS, with higher premiums or priced out completely.

The National Newspapers Publishers Association (NNPA) reported that the White House also announced plans to discontinue the health insurance subsidies that made it easier for low-income people to access quality health care.

The ACA, also known as Obamacare, has significantly decreased the rate of uninsured non-elderly adults in Black communities.

The law also requires health insurance companies to cover preventive services, like HIV screening; diversity and cultural competency training for health care providers; the expansion of the health care workforce; and an increase in funding for community health centers, an important safety net for low-income individuals and families, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Now many health care advocates fear that those gains will be lost as Trump continues to slash key provisions of the ACA.

The White House press secretary issued a statement that said there is no appropriation for cost-sharing-reduction payments to insurance companies under Obamacare.

“The bailout of insurance companies through these unlawful payments is yet another example of how the previous administration abused taxpayer dollars and skirted the law to prop up a broken system,” the statement read. “Congress needs to repeal and replace the disastrous Obamacare law and provide real relief to the American people.”

The reaction was swift from health care advocates, with some suggesting that Trump’s actions would effectively segregate Blacks and people living with HIV in high-risk insurance pools, according to NNPA.

HIV/AIDS advocacy groups urged their constituents to write to their elected officials and contact the attorneys general in their states to demand legal action to protect the ACA.

In a statement about Trump’s refusal to fund the cost-sharing-reduction subsidies, Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, said that Trump and Republican leaders in Congress have proven that they will do everything in their power to take away health care from hardworking Americans.

“This is an unprecedented action: The president of the United States is purposefully hurting millions of the people he is supposed to serve by driving up their health care costs,” Tanden said. “All to further his petty, political agenda and to undo Obamacare.

“People will recognize that Trump — who has spent every last second of his presidency trying to tear down the ACA — is the one solely responsible for breaking health care in America, and congressional Republican leaders have stood by and watched him hurt Americans families while refusing to help them,” Tanden said.

Democratic lawmakers from around the country slammed the president.

“People are going to suffer so that President Trump can score political points with those like him who want to dismantle Obamacare,” said Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa. “It is our obligation to take steps to not allow him to destroy this landmark health care law, which has helped a million Pennsylvanians get coverage and has created thousands of family-sustaining jobs in the health care industry.”

Pennsylvania state Sen. Sharif Street said the president’s actions hurts many working class individuals and job creators.

“Trump’s actions are going to hit middle class families, small business owners and entrepreneurs the hardest,” Street said. “These are individuals who make our economy grow and many of them voted for Trump because he’s a businessman and said he would look out for them, but he’s turned his back on them.”

For more information, call 855-532-5465 or go to https://dchealthlink.com.

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Stacy M. Brown

I’ve worked for the Daily News of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times, Gannet and the Times-Tribune and have contributed to the Pocono Record, the New York Post and the New York Times. Television news opportunities have included: NBC, MSNBC, Scarborough Country, the Abrams Report, Today, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Imus in the Morning and Anderson Cooper 360. Radio programs like the Wendy Williams Experience, Tom Joyner Morning Show and the Howard Stern Show have also provided me the chance to share my views.

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