Tuesday, December 30, 2014

49,740 people in Utah selected 2015 Marketplace plans in the first month of open enrollment

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

89 percent of Utah residents who selected a 2015 plan are getting financial assistance to lower monthly premiums

According to a report released by the Department of Health and Human Services today, 49,740 people in Utah selected plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace leading up to the December 15 deadline for coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2015.  About 89 percent of Utah residents who selected health insurance plans in the first month of open enrollment were determined eligible for financial assistance to lower their monthly premiums, compared to 82 percent who selected plans over a similar period last year.  Of the 49,740 Utah residents who selected a plan, 50 percent reenrolled in a Marketplace plan in 2015 and 50 percent signed up for the first time. 

Today’s report provides the first detailed analysis of enrollment in the Marketplaces for the first month of the 2015 open enrollment period.   Because the automatic reenrollment process for the 37 states using the HealthCare.gov platform (including Utah) began on December 16 and was completed for the vast majority of consumers on December 18, today’s report with data through December 15 does not fully capture the number of people who selected plans leading up to the deadline for Jan. 1, 2015 coverage. 

“We’re pleased that in Utah 49,740 people signed up for Marketplace coverage during the first month of open enrollment.  The vast majority were able to lower their costs even further by getting tax credits, making a difference in the bottom lines of so many families,” HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said.  “Interest in the Marketplace has been strong during the first month of open enrollment. We still have a ways to go and a lot of work to do before February 15, but this is an encouraging start.”

Nationwide, more than 4 million people signed up for the first time or reenrolled in coverage for 2015 during the first month of open enrollment.  That includes more than 3.4 million people who selected a plan in the 37 states that are using the HealthCare.gov platform for 2015 (including Utah), and more than 600,000 consumers who selected plans in the 14 states that are operating their own Marketplace platform for 2015. 

HHS also released a Weekly Enrollment Snapshot that captures more recent enrollment activity in the Marketplace.  The Weekly Snapshot shows that from November 15 to December 26, nearly 6.5 million consumers selected a plan or were automatically reenrolled. 

Open Enrollment in the Marketplace runs from Nov. 15, 2014, through Feb. 15, 2015.

Consumers should visit HealthCare.gov to review and compare health plan options.  Consumers shopping for health insurance coverage should sign up by Jan. 15, 2015, in order to have coverage effective on Feb. 1, 2015.  If consumers who were automatically reenrolled decide in the coming weeks that a better plan exists for their families, they can make that change at any time before the end of open enrollment on February 15.

Consumers can find local help at: Localhelp.healthcare.gov/. Or call the Federally-facilitated Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596. TTY users should call 1-855- 889-4325. Translation services are available. The call is free.

The information contained in today’s report provides the most systematic summary of enrollment-related activity in the Marketplaces to date.  Data for the various metrics are counted using comparable definitions for data elements across states and Marketplace types. 

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Monday, December 29, 2014

Happy New Year! If you haven't signed up for health insurance, now's the time.

No Health Coverage in 2014? What That Means for Your Taxes

You’ll answer a question about your health coverage when you file your federal income tax return. 

If you didn’t have a minimum level of health coverage for the whole year, your taxes could be affected. For example, some tax filers who didn’t have coverage will pay a fee as part of their taxes. Others say ask for an “exemption” because of special situations, and if they’re approved, they won’t have to pay a fee.

Will you owe a fee?

If you could’ve afforded health coverage in 2014 but chose not to buy it and you don’t qualify for an
exemption, you may need to pay a fee with your federal tax return. It’s based on your income, and how many months you didn’t have health coverage.

If you didn’t have health coverage for all of 2014, you’ll pay the higher of:

  • $95 per person who was without coverage for the year ($47.50 per child under 18). The maximum fee per family using this method is $285.
  • An amount that varies depending on your income (generally 1% of your yearly household income over a certain threshold).

The fee increases every year. You don’t have to pay the fee if you’re approved for an exemption
You might be able to get an exemption because of a special situation, like not having affordable health insurance plans available to you, having only a short gap in coverage, or being eligible for services through the Indian Health Service, among others. If your coverage started by May 2014, you’ll qualify for an exemption for the months before your coverage started.

There are 2 types of exemptions:

  1. IRS exemptions that you can get from the IRS by checking the appropriate box when you file your tax return.
  2. Marketplace exemptions that you can request by completing a paper application and mailing it to the Health Insurance Marketplace. If it’s approved, you’ll need to save the approval notice you get in the mail because it includes your Exemption Certificate Number (ECN). Enter your ECN on your federal income tax return for the year you didn’t have health coverage. If the ECN isn’t granted for the whole year, you may still have to pay a fee for some months.

Help is available.

  • For more information about how health coverage will affect your taxes, visit HealthCare.gov/taxes/ or call the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325).
  • Many people who signed up for Marketplace coverage can get free assistance with filling out their taxes. This may include free access to tax software programs, or free in-person assistance. 
For more information, visit IRS.gov/freefile or IRS.gov/VITA. If you have general questions about your taxes, or want to learn more about the fee for not having health coverage, visit IRS.gov.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Utah scores 5 out of 10 in a recent study- Protecting Americans from Infectious Diseases

The Outbreaks: Protecting Americans from Infectious Diseases report finds that the Ebola outbreak exposes serious underlying gaps in the nation's ability to manage severe infectious disease threats.
Half of states and Washington, D.C. scored five or lower out of 10 key indicators related to preventing, detecting, diagnosing and responding to outbreaks. Maryland, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia tied for the top score - achieving eight out of 10 indicators. Arkansas has the lowest score at two out of 10.
Score Summary:
For the state-by-state scoring, states received one point for achieving an indicator or zero points if they did not achieve the indicator. Zero is the lowest possible overall score, 10 is the highest. The data for the indicators are from publicly available sources or were provided from public officials. The indicators are developed in consultation with leading public health experts based on data from publicly available sources or information provided by public officials.

  • 8 out of 10: Maryland, Massachusetts, Tennessee Vermont and Virginia
  • 7 out of 10: California, Delaware, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin
  • 6 out of 10: Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas
  • 5 out of 10: Alabama, D.C., Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah and West Virginia
  • 4 out of 10: Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada and Washington
  • 3 out of 10: Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, Ohio and Wyoming
  • 2 out of 10: Arkansas
Read the entire report at http://www.healthyamericans.org/reports/outbreaks2014/

Salt Lake County Health Dept is among latest group to receive National Accreditation

The Public Health Accreditation Board reports that six more public health departments have been awarded national accreditation.  "This week's decisions bring 40.5 million more people into the growing family of communities that can be assured their health departments are meeting important national standards."  The newly accredited health departments include California, Frederick County (MD), Salt Lake County (UT), Worcester County (MD), Green River (KY) and Houston (TX).

Benefits of National Accreditation Reaching More Communities

Population Served by a PHAB-Accredited Health Department Now Totals 111 Million
demonstrating the capacity to provide the highest quality of services to their communities. This week’s decisions bring 40.5 million more people into the growing family of communities that can be assured their health departments are meeting important national standards. 

PHAB, the non-profit organization that administers the national public health accreditation program, aims to improve and protect the health of the public by advancing the quality and performance of the nation’s Tribal, state, local, and territorial health departments. Since the program’s launch in 2011, 60 health departments have been awarded five-year accreditation status, bringing the total population now served by a PHAB-accredited health department to more than 111 million.

Find out more at http://www.phaboard.org/wp-content/uploads/Dec152014PressReleaseFinal.pdf

Monday, December 15, 2014

Winterize to Prevent Falls

Below are five simple steps that YOU can take today to make a big impact on falls for older adults and adults with disabilities in your community:
  1. Raise awareness by posting and disseminating this simple and colorful infographic -- 6 Steps to Prevent a Fall -- from the National Council on Aging.
  2. Check shoes, boots, and assistive devices and be sure that they are “winterized.” 
    1. Ingrid – Ice Gripper Cane Tip is available at Fashionable Canes and Cozy Winters 
    2. Yaktrax Spikeless Ice & Snow Shoe Gripper Sole Covers are at Fashionable Canes
    3. Keen shoes can be found at OnlineShoes
    4. Try this inexpensive way to make wheelchair snow tires
  3. Encourage older adults to carry a Ziploc bag filled with a lightweight kitty litter in their pocket and cast it out ahead of themselves on very slick surfaces. More information about using kitty litter for traction can be found here.
  4. ‘Tis the season for gift giving! Encourage adult children to give fall-proofing holiday gifts to their parents:
    1. Fall alarm systems that are motion triggered without hitting a button
    2. Higher toilets in the home
    3. Replace multifocal glasses with single vision eyeglass lenses
    4. Grab bars in bathroom and next to outside steps or inside thresholds
    5. Install firm stair railings on both sides of stair ways and set automatic lights over stairways and by outside entrances
    6. Cover the entryway to the home and provide a table to set down bags while finding keys
    7. Give tiny flashlights to attach to keys, hats, and coat buttons. Shorter days mean more time in the dark.
  5. Begin to check ALL older adults with the STEADI fall risk screening tool as part of your normal intake and re-evaluation process. You can learn to administer the STEADI screen and you can learn how to use the Otago Fall Prevention Program and other evidence-based falls prevention programs as part of your community-based fall prevention programs.

Help make this season a safe, warm and wonderful one for your patients, your family and your community.

Today is the last day to sign up for health coverage to start on Jan 1, 2015

Deadline: December 15

Attention: Time is almost up! The deadline for coverage starting on January 1 is today, and your application is waiting. 
Get started button
Applying only takes a few minutes. A little time now can save you money and give you peace of mind about your health. 
Don’t miss out. Millions of people have found quality coverage through HealthCare.gov, and nearly 80% of those who signed up last year received financial assistance. 
Join the millions who are getting covered!
The HealthCare.gov Team

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Governor Herbert Unveils Healthy Utah Plan

Joined by a large group of influential leaders from the government, business, health care, and faith communities, Governor Gary R. Herbert unveiled the details of his Healthy Utah plan. The plan is the governor's alternative to Medicaid expansion and will provide health care coverage for approximately 95,000 Utahns during its first year.

Healthy Utah is built around for central tenets:
  1. Respect the Taxpayer by bringing back to the state's economy taxes Utahns have already paid under the Affordable Care Act to provide health care for the most vulnerable citizens in our state.
  1. Promote Individual Responsibility by using that money that would go into the federal Medicaid program to instead help low-income Utahns purchase private health insurance.
  1. Support Private Markets by requiring that recipients pay premiums and copays and connecting them with an integrated work program that can ultimately reduce their need for public assistance.
  1. Maximize State Flexibility by establishing Healthy Utah as a three-year pilot program, the state is not locked the into a long-term, untested commitment with the federal government. The plan also protects Utah's ability to terminate the program if the federal government fails to meet its funding obligation.

Executive Director Dr. David Patton joined Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox in presenting the plan to members of the State Legislature's Health System Reform Task Force. The plan now must be approved by the Legislature, which is scheduled to address the issue in its upcoming session that begins next month.

To read the entire Healthy Utah plan, click here.

Utah Named 5th Healthiest State in Nation

Utah continued its steady climb toward achieving the UDOH strategic goal of becoming the healthiest state in the nation with the release of the annual United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings™ report. The report named Utah the 5th healthiest state in the nation, improving on its rank of 6th in 2013 and 7th in 2012.

The report highlighted several strengths that lead to Utah’s ranking, including the lowest rates in the nation for tobacco use (10.3 percent) and cancer deaths (145.7 deaths per 100,000 residents), and the second-lowest rate in the nation of adult diabetes (7.1 percent).

Utah was ranked as one of the top five states for several key health indicators, including:
  • The lowest adult smoking rate in the U.S. at 10.3%
  • The lowest prevalence of adult diabetes at 7.1%
  • The lowest cancer death rate
  • The 2nd lowest rate of preventable hospitalizations
  • The 4th lowest rate of obese adults at 24.1%
  • The 5th lowest rate of adults reporting “poor physical health” days in the past month
The report also highlighted several challenges Utah must overcome to achieve its goal of becoming the healthiest state. Utah ranked low in the following categories:
  • 46th for prescription drug overdose deaths
  • 45th for cases of Pertussis, or whooping cough
  • 44th for teen immunization rates
  • 44th for the number of primary care physicians
  • 39th for air pollution

To read the entire report, and see how Utah stacked up against other states, visit the United Health Foundation's website.

Utah receives funding to reward and expand community health centers

HHS awards $36.3 million in Affordable Care Act funding to reward and expand quality improvement in health centers 

Utah Award Amounts

Total Quality Improvement Awards to Utah: 11 totaling $295,869
EHR Reporter 1 Awards: 4 awards totaling $60,000
Clinical Quality Improver 2 Awards: 11 awards totaling $149,058
Health Center Quality Leader 3 Awards: 3 awards totaling $86,810
National Quality Leader 4 Awards: 0 awards totaling $0

Contact: HHS Press Office

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell today announced $36.3 million in Affordable Care Act funding to 1,113 health centers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and seven U.S. Territories to recognize health center quality improvement achievements and invest in ongoing quality improvement activities. The health centers receiving awards today are proven leaders in areas such as chronic disease management, preventive care and the use of Electronic Health Records (EHRs) to report quality data.

“This funding rewards health centers that have a proven track record in clinical quality improvement, which translates to better patient care, and it allows them to expand and improve their systems and infrastructure to bring the highest quality primary care services to the communities they serve,” said Secretary Burwell. “With these funds, health centers in all 50 states will continue to provide access to high quality, comprehensive primary and preventive health care to the patients that need it the most.”

Health centers receiving these funds are being recognized for high levels of quality performance in one or more of the following four categories.
  • Health center quality leaders received awards if they were among the top 30 percent of all health centers that achieved the best overall clinical outcomes, demonstrating their ability to focus on quality in all aspects of their clinical operations; 361 health centers received funding in this category for approximately $11.2 million dollars.
  • National quality leaders received awards for exceeding national clinical benchmarks (Healthy People 2020 objectives and health center national averages) for chronic disease management, preventive care, and perinatal/prenatal care, demonstrating the critical role that health centers play in promoting higher quality health care nationwide; 57 health centers received funding in this category for approximately $2.5 million dollars.
  • Clinical quality improvers received awards if they demonstrated at least a 10 percent improvement in clinical quality measures between 2012 and 2013, showing a significant improvement in the health of the patients they serve; 1,058 health centers received funding in this category for approximately $17.7 million dollars.
  • Electronic Health Record reporters received funding if they used EHRs to report clinical quality measure data on all of their patients, a key transformational step in driving quality improvement for all health center patients across the nation; 332 health centers received funding in this category for approximately $4.9 million dollars.
“These funds reward and support those health centers that have taken steps to achieve the highest levels of clinical quality performance and improvement,” said Health and Resources Administration (HRSA) Administrator Mary K. Wakefield, Ph.D., R.N.
Nearly 1,300 HRSA-supported health centers operate more than 9,200 service delivery sites that provide care to nearly 22 million patients in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Pacific Basin.
For a list of FY 2015 Quality Improvement Awards recipients, visit http://www.hrsa.gov/about/news/2014tables/qualityimprovement/.
To learn more about the Affordable Care Act and Community Health Centers, visit http://bphc.hrsa.gov/about/healthcenterfactsheet.pdf.
To learn more about HRSA’s Community Health Center Program, visit http://bphc.hrsa.gov/about/index.html.
To find a health center in your area, visit http://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Only 6 days until the Dec 15 deadline

Attention: Time is running out! There are only 6 days remaining to enroll in a Marketplace plan for coverage starting on January 1st.
On HealthCare.gov, compare plans side-by-side to find one that fits your needs and budget. Like Carlos, you may even qualify for lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs.
Carlos portrait
Carlos enrolled in a health insurance plan on HealthCare.gov and only pays $20 a month! For 2014, 8 out of 10 people who signed up for health insurance on HealthCare.gov got help paying for their costs.
get started-red
Don’t delay and visit HealthCare.gov to see your potential savings.
The HealthCare.gov Team

Health Eating Research: Special Solicitation

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Funding Opportunity

Deadline: January 7, 2015 (3 p.m.)Healthy Eating Research: Building Evidence to Prevent Childhood Obesity supports research on environmental and policy strategies with strong potential to promote healthy eating among children to prevent childhood obesity, especially among groups at highest risk for obesity: Black, Latino, American Indian, Asian/Pacific Islander children, and children who live in lower-income communities.

This Call for Proposals focuses on childhood obesity prevention efforts in two settings:
  • Healthy Food Retail
  • Early Care and Education
The primary goal of this special solicitation is to fund and communicate strategic and timely research addressing key evidence needed to advance RWJF’s childhood obesity prevention priorities.

More details and how to apply >

Monday, December 8, 2014

ACA: Changes You Need to Know Regarding Your 2014 Tax Return

As of January 1, 2014, most Americans are required to have minimum essential health insurance. For most taxpayers, this means little or no changes to your taxes. If you had employer-provided insurance for most of 2014, or you purchased coverage through a private exchange or directly from an insurance company, the ACA's insurance mandate won't impact your taxes. (Note: You may receive IRS Form 1095-B and/or 1095-C from your employer or insurance company in January 2015, but you don't need to report that info on this year's tax return.) 

If you purchased insurance for 2014 from a Marketplace, you'll receive IRS Form 1095-A in January 2015. If you received the advanced premium credit in 2014, that information will be on your Form 1095-A. You may receive a bigger tax credit or have to pay back some or all of the credit if your actual income is more or less than the amount you estimated at the time you purchased coverage from your Marketplace. 

If you did not have insurance for three or more months in 2014, you may be subject to a penalty (also known as an individual shared responsibility payment) that you must pay when filing your taxes. The penalty is 1% of your 2014 income or $95 per adult – whichever is higher – and $47.50 per uninsured dependent under the age of 18, up to $285 total per family.

For more information:
IRS ACA link http://www.irs.gov/Affordable-Care-Act