ACA Penalty Does Not Kick in Until March 31, 2014

ACA Penalty Does Not Kick in Until March 31, 2014

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This new information from the Federal Office was just posted January 14, 2014 and I thought it would be helpful to pass it along to my readers here in Southern California. As noted previously, under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), this year (2014) virtually all Americans will need to either have a medical health insurance plan that meets federal requirements, or pay a tax penalty. (Those who are enrolled in Medicare Part A or another government health plan will be treated as complying with the law; those enrolled in an employer-sponsored health plan should check with their employer to confirm whether the plan is ACA-compliant.)

Individuals who do not obtain the required health insurance may be subject to a penalty. Note that if an individual enrolls in a qualifying plan by March 31, s/he will not have to pay the penalty.

How does this timing relate to the ongoing efforts of the U.S. Federal Office to find a resolution for Christian Scientists under the law? 

The March 31 deadline provides Congress with an extended window to finalize a legislative solution in Congress that would enable those with sincerely held religious beliefs against purchasing the required medical insurance to apply for a 2014 exemption. We’re hoping Congress will act on this solution by March 31.

There is strong bipartisan support for the solution among Members of Congress. (207 Representatives; 27 Senators.) Tremendous thanks is due in large part to the ongoing efforts of Christian Scientists throughout the country!  However, we continue to need your help NOW!

  • Let us know if you will be in Washington, DC soon and would like to meet with your representative to engage with him/her on this issue.
  • Find out whether your representative will be at a local event in your area, and let us know—it could be an excellent opportunity for church members to ask or thank the representative for his/her support!

As always, please periodically visit this website for updates; and if you hear your family, friends, or fellow branch church members wondering about this topic, encourage them to check out the resources on our website and to subscribe to the Federal Office newsletter!

 

No! A Life Saver?

No! A Life Saver?

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by Don Ingwerson

“One Word Can Save Your Life: No!”  This Newsweek cover made me wonder how a word could save lives. It’s all about tests…too many of them.

At first I thought the article was slamming medical doctors and medicine, but I found it to be rather balanced in that regard. Sometimes tests are needed, but simply stated, less is more in the area of medicine.

Sharon Begley, the author, states that more health care can sometimes harm one’s health, while less health care can often lead to better health (an idea that runs counter to most patients’ belief that screenings and treatments are only beneficial).

Begley quotes Dr. Rita Redberg, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and editor of the prestigious Archives of Internal Medicine, as saying, “There are many areas of medicine where not testing, not imaging, and not treating actually result in better health outcomes.” Redberg adheres to this idea in her own life and has chosen not to screen for certain diseases recommended by her profession.

Others in the medical field are also looking more closely at screening options. An article in the Huffington Post reported that medical societies made up of family physicians, cardiologists, and other specialists are telling America’s doctors not to be so quick to order expensive procedures like CT scans and x-rays.

Another article, in the New York Times, reports a shift in people’s receptivity to hear all the pros and cons of treatment before making a decision. In this article, Dr. Barry says, “When patients are fully informed, they tend to be more conservative.”

This conservatism Barry speaks about may have helped spark a growing interest in alternative medicines in place of and along with the traditional treatments of western medicine.

According to a 2002 NIH study on alternative medicines, out of the nine alternative medicines studied, the most used was prayer at 43%. The Bible is full of accounts of healing and health restoration through the use of prayer and my experience has been that prayer does heal – and is a reliable medicine for health challenges.

Saying No to screenings is changing our approach to keeping the body healthy. Awareness of over diagnoses and the increased use of alternative medicines are important factors to watch as the public (and elected and appointed officials) work to define the limits of the Federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care laws. These laws, as they were adopted, have the potential of creating new mandates, which reach into every community and home.

One issue is whether each individual has the freedom to choose the type of health care he thinks is best for him, and that the insurance industry is able to provide. Insurance coverage for all choices, whether those choices involve traditional western medicine and/or alternative therapies like prayer, should be considered.

Say ‘Yes’ to patient choice in the interest of health that is safe, and meets our needs.

Article previously published May 21, 2012 and first published in Blogcritics.

The Affordable Care Act and You

The Affordable Care Act and You

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by Don Ingwerson

The Federal Office is working to keep everyone abreast of up-to-date Affordable Care Act information. Here is their latest:

What do you know about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and how it will affect you? If you’re a bit unsure, you’re not alone! A March 2013 Kaiser poll indicated that 57% of Americans did not feel they had enough information to understand how the law would impact them personally.

Of course, it’s not easy—the ACA, passed in 2010, contains a host of deadlines, descriptions, and details that are being rolled out over a span of several years.

However, there are a number of resources available to help individuals understand the law and when and how its changes might affect them.

One of these resources is our newly-updated portal to information on the Affordable Care Act in an “Affordable Care Act FAQs” page on our website. Whether you have a specific question or are seeking information generally, we encourage you to check out the U.S. Federal Office’s new FAQ page!

How the ACA Affects You

How the ACA Affects You

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by Don Ingwerson

We have less than a year to go before the ACA (Affordable Care Act) goes into effect. I’ve noticed many news articles that show many people still have questions about what this means for them. A post by the Federal Committee on Publication site tries to alleviate the confusion by appointing someone as the lead person to answer questions from the Field. Here is the post by the Federal office and it can also be read directly from their site by clicking Questions about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and how it affects you:

The Church’s Office of the General Counsel has hired an individual to help communicate with the Field about this topic. This person is Roger Whiteway, whom some of you may also recognize as the Committee on Publication for Virginia. Roger will certainly not be the sole point of communication with the Field. He will be responding to questions and issues along with others, including those working in our office.

We will continue to send regular updates, including notices of online information sessions, via our newsletters.

There are multiple resources available to you, including:

The Fourth Quarter

The Fourth Quarter

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Models used for illustrative purposes

by Don Ingwerson

The Federal Office has an update as to the progress being made on the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Gary Jones, Manager Government Relations Division, details the efforts of the Christian Science movement to seek a legislative solution to the inequity Christian Scientists face under this act:

Friends,

We find ourselves—to use a sports analogy—in the “fourth quarter” of the Church’s efforts to resolve the inequity facing Christian Scientists under the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”).  As you know, virtually all Americans must obtain medical insurance by January 1, 2014, or else pay a penalty (unless they qualify for an exemption, are at least 65 years old and enrolled in Medicare Part A, etc.).

We continue to make good progress with our multiple approaches to remedy this unfairness, including:

  • Requesting that the federal and state governments include coverage of Christian Science practitioner, Christian Science nursing, and Christian Science nursing facility services in the benefits that will be offered by health insurance plans at the state insurance exchanges, which open October 1 of this year.
    • Ultimately, we hope to have an insurance plan covering Christian Science health care services at every state exchange.
    • We continue to have productive meetings with federal and state officials as we work to achieve this goal; however, there are no guarantees at this point.
  • Seeking a legislative solution with Congress that would allow individuals with a “sincerely held religious belief” that causes them to object to the medical care covered by the required health insurance to be exempted from the insurance mandate.
    • The ACA’s existing religious conscience exemption applies only to a few select faiths. There’s now a bill in Congress—the EACH (Equitable Access to Care and Health) Act—that would modestly expand this exemption, using the Massachusetts religious conscience exemption as a model.
    • We’re grateful for the broad bipartisan support from Members in both houses of Congress who are actively working in support of this effort; however, there are no guarantees right now.

These efforts are “works in progress”, and we continue to proceed very diligently toward resolution of the ACA’s inequity toward Christian Scientists.  We will be stepping up our communications with you as we near the fall of this year.

We’ve seen and experienced firsthand the tremendous engagement and support of Christian Scientists and friends. Wow! From the bottom of our hearts, we say THANK YOU!

Again, we’ll continue to send updates via these newsletters, so please do encourage fellow church members and friends to sign up!

Warmly,

Gary Jones
Manager, Government Relations Division of the Committee on Publication

To read Gary Jones’ letter on the Federal Office site, click here:  A Note from the Manager of the Government Relations Division

No Rate Shock for Exchange

No Rate Shock for Exchange

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by Don Ingwerson

In an effort to keep you informed as to the progress of ACA (Affordable Care Act), I have included a link to an article on the latest information on California’s Health Insurance Exchange: California’s Health Insurance Exchange Sets Plans, Premiums; No ‘Rate Shock.’ Experts had warned that this new exchange, once established, would have considerably higher costs, which so far has not happened. There are 13 plans selected and within the article you click on a link to look up your own region to see what plans and premiums are available. The article further explains when new details will emerge over the summer.

Effective Health Care

Effective Health Care

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by Don Ingwerson

Health care continues to be covered extensively in the media. Recently, members of the Christian Science Board of Directors were interviewed by Scott Preller, President of the Christian Science Board of Education, about this important issue.  The question asked of the Directors was: “How is the Church responding to the Affordable Care Act – the law passed in the United States requiring (most) all citizens to obtain health Insurance (or pay a penalty)?”  Their comments on this subject can be found by clicking on the audio link.  I found their comments very helpful and informative.

To hear an audio of the entire conversation go to: journal.christianscience.com/effective-health-care.

Ask Emily Column

Ask Emily Column

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by Don Ingwerson

Each Thursday, I present information about legislative items to keep you informed.  I wanted to share with you a new biweekly column in the Sacramento Bee on answering questions about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which contains a mandate for most everyone to have insurance by January 1, 2014 or pay a fine. Emily Bazar, who works for the California HealthCare Foundation Center for Health Reporting, answers questions on what the health insurance exchange is and explains some of the nuances of buying insurance, To read the first column, published April 9, 2013, click here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/04/09/5329021/ask-emily-questions-and-answers.html?storylink=lingospot_related_articles

An Important Year for Health Reform Implementation

An Important Year for Health Reform Implementation

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Model used for illustrative purposes

by Don Ingwerson

I have been regularly sharing articles and information regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that will be in effect in 2014. We are now well into 2013 and WebMD has just put out an article on what they see will be important developments in health care for this year. I hope you find this information helpful – and ask questions or comment if there are aspects of this information that I may be able to clarify. I look forward to hearing from you!

Article link: What’s Ahead for the Affordable Care Act in 2013?

Health Care Reform Update

Health Care Reform Update

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This is the latest update from the U.S. Committee on Publication Federal Office on the health care reform efforts:

For more than three years, the U.S. Federal Office has been actively engaged in the conversation about health care reform on Capitol Hill to represent the unique perspective of Christian Scientists and others who use spiritual care services—and we are making excellent progress.

Under the 2010 health care law—the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the ACA)—most Americans will be required to purchase health insurance by 2014 (except, for example, those who are enrolled in Medicare Part A). For Christian Scientists and others who use spiritual care services, there is a looming inequity: the required health insurance will likely not include the type of care they use, nor does the law provide for a religious exemption that meets their needs.

To remedy this situation, the U.S. Federal Office is pursuing several approaches that have been well-received, including these:

  • Requesting that the federal and state governments include coverage of Christian Science practitioner and nursing services in the benefits that will be offered by health insurance plans through the state insurance exchanges. Given the intent of PPACA to provide coverage for all, it seems fair that the law meet the “essential” health needs of all individuals regardless of faith. This would be consistent with the long history of government accommodations for Christian Science health services in Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs.
  • Seeking a legislative solution with Congress that would allow anyone with a “sincerely held religious belief” against purchasing the mandated health insurance to be exempted from the requirement. The current religious exemption in PPACA gives preference to a few select faiths—allowing the Amish, the Mennonites, and Health Care Sharing Ministries to opt out—without respecting the rights of all faiths. We believe the rights of religious minorities should be respected when it comes to their health care decisions.

We’re very grateful for the many members of Congress who have actively worked on behalf of Christian Scientists in both of these efforts, and we appreciate the continued effective engagement and support of Christian Scientists and their friends as we move forward. If you would like to be in touch with the Federal Office about health care reform, please feel free to email at federal@christianscience.com, or find out more about what you can do to get involved.