Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Affordable Care Act and Ways You Already Benefit

There is so much confusion being spread about what the Affordable Care Act does and does not do, that it can be hard to know whether it's worth it all or not. Here are some ways many people already benefit from this important law:

  • Students up to age 26 can remain on their parents' health insurance plans. Many young adults just getting out of college struggle to find a full-time job which provides health benefits, so in one stroke the law increased the number of people with health insurance. This started with plans beginning on or after September 23, 2010.
  • Uniform Coverage Summaries for Consumers requires all plans to provide a uniform summary of benefits and coverage, making it easier for individuals and businesses to compare plans and to understand what is and is not covered by the plans. Kind of like making sure that you are comparing apples to apples, and not apples to lemons. This went into effect in 2012.
  • Children cannot be excluded from a parent's health coverage because of the health status of that child. This went into effect in 2010, and meant that thousands of children with chronic health conditions like juvenile diabetes would not be without health insurance.
  • Starting in 2010, new health plans had to provide certain preventive services without "cost-sharing" for patients. These preventive services include recommended immunizations and screenings, as well as preventive check-ups for children.
More changes (and benefits) are coming in the very near future:

  • Starting in 2014, adults cannot be denied health insurance because of pre-existing health conditions. Those with pre-existing conditions also cannot be charged more for health insurance than those who are healthy. So, say you have Type II diabetes and you decide to change jobs: if your new employer offers health insurance to the other employees, you cannot be denied the same health insurance coverage, nor can you be required to pay more for your insurance than your coworkers (if employees contribute to their health insurance coverage).
  • Starting October 1, 2013, you can visit the Health Insurance Marketplace to find a health insurance plan that meets your needs. All plans in the marketplace will be required to meet minimum levels of coverage. Some states have created their own "exchanges", others use the federal "exchange". Visit www.healthcare.gov and click on the "See Your Options" button for more information, even before Oct. 1.
  • Starting in 2014, even "grandfathered" plans must eliminate annual limits for coverage; lifetime limits were eliminated in 2010. Grandfathered plans are employer health insurance plans that were in place on March 23, 2010, and are restricted in what changes may be made to the plans.
For even more information about the Affordable Care Act and how it's changing health insurance for everyone, visit either HealthCare.gov's "How does the health care law protect me?", or the Kaiser Family Foundation Health Reform site.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New School Year Means Science Experiment Time!

"Hey Mom, I forgot to go to the library to do my science homework!"

If you've heard this line too many times to count, we have some good news for you: The Pottsville Library has some online science resources you can use from home, any time of day or night. These materials don't count as "Internet resources" in teacher's instructions, which usually means the kids can't use Google to find their information. The online resources from the Pottsville Library are authoritative reference materials appropriate for school kids to use for homework assignments.

The Reference Department has purchased a number of science experiment ebooks, available for you to use from your home computer. Just go to the library's home page at www.pottsvillelibrary.org, click on the link that says "Infobase eBooks", and enter your Pottsville library card number. There are a number of subjects available here, in addition to the 12 books just on science experiments. Is your son or daughter interested in Forensics? Biology? Weather? We have books with experiments in these fields!

Additional ebooks are available from the Britannica collection. From the library's home page, click on the link that says "Britannica E-Books", and enter your Pottsville library card number. There are several ebooks dealing with specific parts of the human body, as well as books on fossil fuels and renewable energy.

And if your student needs more information to go along with their project, you can also access the POWER Library, a collection of reference materials available to residents of the state of Pennsylvania. From the Pottsville Library's home page, click on the link that says "POWER Library Network", and enter your Pottsville library card number. Elementary school students can use the "Kids Search", "Primary Search", or "SIRS Discoverer" databases. Middle school students can use "Kids Search", "SIRS Discoverer", or "Middle Search" databases. High school students should use "MasterFILE" (general topics), "GreenFILE" (for environmental issues), or "Newspaper Source Plus" (specifically for newspaper articles).

If you are really stuck trying to find something, and the library is closed for the day, you can also use the "Ask Here PA" service (on the Pottsville Library home page), available to all state residents. A librarian is always available to help you find materials that can be trusted.

Have questions about using online resources? Contact the Reference Department at potref@pottsvillelibrary.org, or by telephone at 570-622-8880.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Changes to the Way You Dial

Just a reminder to everyone that soon you will need to include the 570 area code when you dial local telephone numbers! Northeastern Pennsylvania will soon get a new area code, 272, which will cover the same area as 570. Starting on September 21, you will need to always dial ten digits to reach someone, whether they live next door or across the state. If you do not use all ten digits, you will hear an error message prompting you to redial correctly.

If your cell phone is programmed with your contacts, you will need to make sure you add the area code to all your contacts' phone numbers.  You might have already received a reminder about this from your cell phone service provider.

The new area code will begin after October 21. Calls to both 272 and 570 numbers will be local if they are within your regular local calling area now. (Basically, what is a local call now will be local after the new number is put into use, regardless whether it is 570 or 272.)

For more information, check out Verizon's web page at www22.verizon.com/multimedia/areacodes/pennsylvania/pennsylvania.aspx.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Health Insurance Marketplace, and the Affordable Care Act

October 1 marks the beginning of open enrollment for those who do not have health insurance. Do you know what that means to you and your family? If you are not sure if you need to take part or not, start now by visiting HealthCare.gov.  You can find answers to many of your questions on the "Individuals" page at www.healthcare.gov/families/, such as what the Marketplace is, what the insurance covers, what your rights are, what to do if you are self-employed. If you already have health insurance, there are answers about what the Affordable Care Act already does for you.

Some facts that everyone needs to know:

  • Pennsylvania residents will need to use HealthCare.gov to apply for coverage, compare available plans, and enroll. 
  • Starting in 2014, health insurance plans can't refuse to cover you or charge you more just because you have a pre-existing health condition. (Unless you keep your previous individual insurance, which is considered "grandfathered" in and does not have to meet this requirement. See the site for more details.)
  • Most health plans must cover a set of preventive services like shots and screening tests at no cost to you.
  • If you run an income-generating business with no employees, then you're considered self-employed (not an employer) and can get coverage through the Marketplace.
  • Some fraudsters may try to convince you to pay for help signing up.  The Marketplace has trained assisters in every state to help you at no cost. You should never be asked to pay for services or help. Double check any information that is confusing or sounds fishy. Call the Health Insurance Marketplace at 1-800-318-2596 if something doesn't sound right.

By learning more now, you can be ready when October 1 comes around!