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Blacks encouraged to sign up for Obamacare now
BY CASH MICHAELS
FOR THE CHRONICLE .
The U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services (HHS),
which will remain under the Obama Administration until
President-elect Donald Trump is swom into office Jan. 20,
wants to make one thing very clear to African-Americans
and others - the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is still the
law of the land, and will remain so now through the end
of 2017. Insurers have already contracted with the federal
government to do so.
In fact. North Carolinians still needing comprehensive
health care coverage at a reduced rate starting Jan. 1, are
strongly urged to go to www.HealthCare.gov today,
Thursday, Dec. 15, to sign up. Also, there are help coun
selors available who speak multiple languages. Visit
www.localhelpJiealthcare.gov to find a local location in
the area with local help, or speak with someone over the
phone 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week in English or
Spanish at 1-800-318-2596.
Otherwise, you have until Jan. 31,2017, the deadline
for the current open enrollment period, to sign up, with
your coverage commencing in February or March 2017.
For assistance, call Enroll America at 855-733-3711,
or go to www.getcoveredamerica.org/connector.
To alleviate any confusion about the fate of the ACA,
HHS Sec. Sylvia Maxwell Burwell spoke exclusively
with The Chronicle and other black newspapers across the
nation last week, urging that our readers not be fearful
about press reports the Trump Administration and
Congress' plan to dismantle what is commonly known as
"Obamacare", and it may mean for those already enrolled,
or those planning to enroll for low-cost comprehensive
health insurance coverage.
"For consumers who want or need coverage for 2017,
my message is simple - visit www.HealthCare.gov and
check out your options, and don't let the current political
debate keep you from getting covered," Burwell told
reporters. "Insurers have said that when people sign up for
2017 coverage, [the insurance companies] consider that a
"We've also heard members of Congress, issuers and
the president-elect say that they don't want to disrupt cov
erage next year. But on the other hand, looking beyond
2017, some of the proposals out there do threaten to take
from tens of millions of people," Burwell continued.
"In particular there's been discussion about acting imme
"Let's be clear
-Sylvia Maxwell Burwell
diately to repeal the law's coverage expansion, but leaving
the question of what would replace them for another day."
"Let's be clear - this so-called 'repeal and delay' is
effectively 'repeal and collapse,'" Burwell declared.
"Health insurance companies start making decisions
about 2018 just a few months into the new year.
Uncertainty can lead them to dramatically raise prices, or
drop out of [the ACA marketplace] entirely. That means
some Americans will likely not be able to find coverage at
all, and others won't be able to afford it."
Press reports from conservative media like The
Weekly Standard say GOP House and Senate leaders,
working with Vice President-elect Mike Pence are plan
ning to do away with the ACA in at least three stages -
repeal most of the law when Congress starts its new ses
sion Jan. 3, 2017, delay the implementation of most of
that repeal for at least two years, and in the interim, deter
mine what to replace the ACA with.
So, no one's coverage should be affected in 2017,
Burwell suggests, until the Republican legislative sce
nario plays out.
Here in North Carolina, those enrolling in the ACA
only have one insurance company. Blue Cross Blue
Shield, that provides service across the state. BCBSNC
raised its ACA rates 32.5 percent this year, and has
announced a 24.3 percent hike for 2017. Thus, premiums
here are higher than in many other states. But for those
who qualify, the amount of tax credits and federal subsi
dies that help knock the premium costs down for individ
uals enrolled are also among the highest in the nation, an
will remain so, even with projections of the premium cost
going up next year.
Over 545,000 were enrolled in the ACA in North
Carolina as of March of this year. Eighty-five percent of
them are actually paying less than $100 per month in pre
miums after subsidies, and 77 percent are paying less than
$50 per month.
Nationally, over 2.1 million people - both new con
sumers and renewing consumers - enrolled through
Healthcare.gov for 2017 during the first four weeks of
open enrollment which began Nov. 1. According to HHS,
134,049 North Carolinians are among that number.
About 22,000 from Forsyth County are expected to
signup for 2017 by deadline.
As it stands now, over 20 million Americans are cov
ered under the ACA.
For African-Americans, according to HHS, 3 million
more African-Americans who were uninsured before now
have coverage, cutting the number of uninsured black
adults by more than 50 percent (from 22.6 percent to 10.6
And 509,000 African-American young people
between the ages of 19 and 26 who would have been unin
sured now have coverage under their parents' plans.
from page A1
Interestingly, whomever is elected
then, will have to run for re-election, as
they normally would, in November 2018.
Republican leaders are appealing that
special election ruling to the U.S. Supreme
Court. Attorneys for the N.C. GOP have
already gone before the U.S. High Court
recently appealing the appellate court's
striking down of their 2011 congressional
districts, which produced 10 Republican
representatives, and only three Democrats
- two of them black from minority-major
It is because the Republicans are
expected to still try to redraw the unconsti
tutional districts in a way that is most
favorable to them, despite the federal court
order, that Blue says ultimately that task,
in the future should fall to a nonpartisan
commission that, as in other states, rou
tinely draw districts that are much more
competitive electorally than in North
"[The Republicans] know that this
time, they know that a federal court is
looking over their shoulders [when they
try to redraw the districts in 2017], says
Blue, adding that with the state Supreme
Court now having a Democratic majority,
they also know that it's least likely another
unconstitutional map will be upheld by the
state High Court, either.
"The only way that you're going to
eventually get a system that does not
[employ] political gerrymandering or
racial gerrymandering ... the only way
you're going to move away from that, is
by an independent redisricting commis
sion," Blue said. "If these guys agreed to
do it, I would join in with them immediate
ly, but I don't have any belief that they
would do it."
"So until we can get to that point, it's
comforting to know that a federal court is
looking over their shoulders so that if they
try to cut too many corners, the court can
reel them back in, or the court itself can
draw the districts. All the court has to do is
give them the chance to do it the right
Various nonpartisan groups, like
Common Cause N.C., have been calling
for an independent redisricting commis
sion for years, saying that voters should be
choosing their elected officials, instead of
the current practice of elected officials
choosing their voters by drawing districts
that virtually eliminates the possibility of
losing an election.
In 2015, two pieces of legislation from
a bipartisan group of state lawmakers
seeking a new redisricting process had
been introduced in the N.C. General
Assembly, but ultimately went nowhere
because Republicans did not schedule
them for committees.
SPBCIAL to THE CHRONICLE Jj
A new report affirms Wake Forest University's leader
ship in transforming the traditional, outdated concept of
"career services" into a holistic, four-year approach to per
sonal and career development.
The Gallup-Purdue Index Report 2016 found that one
in six U.S. college graduates say career services at their
institution were very helpful - the same number that said
they were not helpful at all.
These and other findings in the report are based on
more than 11,000 interviews with U.S. adults aged 18 and
older with at least a bachelor's degree.
Reporters at the Wall Street Journal, Inside Higher Ed
and The Hechinger Report featured insights from Andy
Chan, vice president for innovation and career develop
ment, because Wake Forest's Office of Personal and
Career Development (OPCD) has been a national pace
setter for the college-to-career transition.
The findings 'make complete sense to me,"' Chan
told the Wall Street Journal. The leading business publica
tion also cited "A Roadmap for Transforming the College
To-Career Experience," a 2013 paper Chan co-authored
that read, in part: '"Unless we can demonstrate to prospec
tive students and their families that the four years spent at
college will result in better employment prospects, there
will continue to be those who disparage a college educa
tion as a waste of money.'"
fhe Hechinger Report noted: "Wake Forest and a few
othet" colleges and universities go further, offering college
to-career bourses in which students are taught to think
aboijt their prospective careers and how to tell their stories
Die OPCD is continually innovating, and efforts made
< >v cr the last several years are translating to jobs. The latest
available first destination data shows that 98 percent of the
Wake Forest undergraduate class of 2015 were either
m ployed or in graduate school (based on a 90 percent
knowledge rate) six months out of college.
'One of the challenges is helping students understand
that going to the career office is a multioccasion, multi
yeadexperience, not just going 'at least once.' Sometimes
students think they'll go one time for 30 minutes and get
everWiing they need, but it's not that simple," Chan told
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