Monday, July 21, 2014

Sweeping through July

Alright folks, I've tired of those of you who quip to me "I'm bored with nothing to do." REALLY? Well that's not the case here at COP 24/7 where there's plenty to do and how! We've got our eyes and ears poised for the latest "what's really going on," and so much more. It seems that this forum can't catch its breathe as the work continues to keep on coming from all angles, levels and circles that often times we just don't know where to even start. So for those of you bored with nothing to do, at least you can stay locked and loaded with COP 24/7 as we keep churning out info that you might want to know in your boredom...

Social Security Dials Back Determination Letter Decision

This forum reported that Social Security would be opting to not forward verification letters to citizens starting Aug 1. However, it seems that Social Security is backpedaling on its decision to require mostSocial Security verification letters, required for things like mortgage approvals and applications for government assistance.
people to download their own

The agency had announced that beginning Aug. 1, those in need of these letters would have to sign up for a personal My Social Security account and have access to a computer and a printer, things that many people living in retirement don't have.

A recent report by the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, critical of Social Security's decisions to close 64 field offices and 533 mobile offices, points out that in 2013, 5 million people visited Social Security offices to get verification letters to corroborate such things as their income or retirement status. While public access to computers is available in many community libraries, some libraries and Microsoft itself warn against entering sensitive information into a publicly available computer.

In reversing the decision to stop sending verification letters by postal mail, Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin said in a statement: "We appreciate the feedback from members of Congress, our community stakeholders and agency partners. We want to ensure that we meet the needs of our customers in a way that is convenient for them and also cost-effective and secure for all."

Response from those most concerned about the issue was positive. "I'm glad the Social Security Administration has listened to our seniors' concerns," Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., chairman of the Senate aging committee, told the Associated Press. "As the agency pushes more people online to conduct their business, we need to make sure our most vulnerable citizens are not being left high and dry."

International AIDS Conference goes "Down Under"

The 20th International AIDS Conference convening stepped of amidst the somber of the downing of flight MH 17 which was shot down from the skies last week over the Ukraine. The opening of the conference was filled with tributes and remembrances of six delegates who were lost on the ill-fated flight that resulted in 298 deaths. COP 24/7 joined in a joint statement from the Arkansas HIV Planning Group on its dismay and sadness at this unfortunate act of violence.

A one minute global moment of remembrance was held in their honor with eleven former, present and future Presidents of the International AIDS Society onstage together with representatives from those organizations who lost colleagues, the World Health Organization, AIDS Fonds, Stop AIDS Now, The Female Health Company, the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development and members of the Dutch HIV research community

A letter of condolence and support was also read out by Mr Lambert Grijns, The Dutch Ambassador for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and HIV/AIDS.

Condolence books are circulating onsite at the conference for the duration of the event. On Tuesday July 22 at 18.00 AEST, a Candelight Vigil will be held at Federation Square in the center of Melbourne.
Some 12,000 participants from all over the world have gathered in Melbourne for the start of the 20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014). Under the theme Stepping up the Pace, during the five days of the conference delegates will discuss the latest research developments and will further explore updates, strategies, and research developments from worldwide experts.

Among the specific "hot button" topics will be HIV cure strategies and challenges; HIV prevention via Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), Treatment as Prevention (TasP), and voluntary medical male circumcision; Tuberculosis and Hepatitis C co-infection; and HIV and hormonal contraception. In addition, several studies will discuss the impact of discriminatory laws and the costs related to HIV prevention and care.

At the AIDS 2014 Opening Sessions, speakers discussed the encouraging data related to access treatment and reducing new HIV infections, but reminded the audience that HIV is far from being defeated and that stigma and discrimination towards Key Affected Population pose a major barrier to the end of the epidemic. COP 24/7 will be serving up video feeds and other content from the conference throughout the week. This conference is among the most tech savvy to say the least. Although it would be good to be in the house, COP 24/7 will do what it can to bring you the next best thing to being their! Stay tuned....

HHS announces auto-enrollment plans for current Marketplace consumers for 2015

Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) expects to announce its plans for helping existing Marketplace consumers get auto-enrolled for next year.  These plans would give existing consumers a simple way to remain in the same plan next year unless they want to shop for another plan and choose to make changes. This news also comes on the heels of news that now qualified IPA (In-person assisters) who were licensed for the 2014 roll out have been notified that there licenses will expire in September and will have to "reapply" as well as be retested to assist with the 2015 enrollment.

What's more interesting to this notification is the fact that most of those who were licensed in 2014 were tossed amidst the Arkansas legislatures back room dealing which sacrificed the jobs of those individuals, disallow the Arkansas Insurance Department to seek any additional funding to support outreach and enrollment activities as a political bribe to have the Health Care Independent Act proceed. It is now estimated that as of May 2014, 187,123 Arkansans were deemed eligible for the program resulting in 75% of those eligible. Yet there is still haters of the program that have vowed to repeal the measure.

“As we plan for open enrollment in year two and continue to build a sustainable long-term system, we are committed to simplifying the experience for consumers by allowing auto-enrollment,” said Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Secretary of HHS. “We are working to streamline the process for consumers wishing to remain in their current plan.”

In today’s health insurance market, the vast majority of consumers are generally auto-enrolled in their plan year after year.  For example, about 88 percent of employees receiving coverage through the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program don’t choose to change plans and are instead auto-enrolled in their current plan with updated premiums and benefits.  These guidelines aim to bring the Marketplace in line with this practice in the existing insurance market.

As with existing open enrollment periods for employer-based coverage, consumers are strongly encouraged to use the open enrollment period as an opportunity to update their information and reevaluate their health coverage needs for the coming year.

Consumers always have the ability to return to the system for shopping, changing plans, or reporting life changes, or a change to their annual income to ensure they are getting the lowest cost possible on their monthly premium. And, to help ensure the program integrity of how taxpayer dollars are spent, while also protecting consumers from having to pay back tax credits they are no longer eligible for, under the approach that the Federally-facilitated Marketplace would use in 2015, the small number of consumers whose updated income information suggests they no longer qualify for a tax credit next year, will still be auto-enrolled in their current plan, but without a tax credit. State-based Marketplaces may take this approach as well, or propose an alternative.

Under the plans that HHS expects to announce today, consumers in the Federally-facilitated Marketplace will receive notices from the Marketplace informing them how to update their information to get a tailored and updated tax credit that keeps up with any income changes. Consumers will receive information from their health insurance company about the premium and the amount they are eligible to save on their monthly bill close to the beginning of the open enrollment period, when they will be able to take action should they choose to do so.

“We are continuing to plan for a second open enrollment period, and as we do so, are mindful of our ongoing work to improve the Marketplace for consumers, offering families a way to make the choices that meet their health care needs year after year,” said Marilyn Tavenner, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

We are also announcing plans for additional flexibility for State-based Marketplaces in this area, including the ability for State-based Marketplaces to propose unique approaches that meet the specific needs of their State, while streamlining the consumer experience.


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