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News & Current Events

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) arrives on the Mendocino Coast


Susana Macias, Nutrition & Wellness Coordinator, shares information on making healthy food choices with a young patient. Health and Wellness is a primary focus of the Affordable Care Act.Susana Macias, Nutrition & Wellness Coordinator, shares information on making healthy food choices with a young patient. Health and Wellness is a primary focus of the Affordable Care Act.

Today, you can have a fabulous expendable income and not even be able to buy private health insurance if you have what the insurance company considers a “pre-existing condition”. If you get sick and need extensive treatment, your insurance company can stop paying your expenses because you have reached your annual limit. You can be charged more for your coverage because you are woman. All these disastrous scenarios’ will change dramatically on January 1, 2014!


The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has already produced tremendous benefits for people, although the political rhetoric in the media has many people confused. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation Health Study indicated 42% of people are unaware the ACA is actually the law, including 12% who believe Congress repealed it and 7% who think the Supreme Court overturned it.
Mendocino County residents are particularly vulnerable, given the Healthy Mendocino Community Dashboard indicates that only 54% of adults, ages 18-64, have health insurance through their employment or privately purchased. Twenty two percent of people in this age range are totally without access to health insurance at all. These statistics were from 2009; before the recession blasted our region, so current circumstances may be worse. Many more health care indicators and community information is available on the Healthy Mendocino website, www.healthymendocino.org.

Benefits already realized include:
• 19-26 year olds have insurance!
• Health plans cannot drop members due to illness!
• Children with chronic conditions cannot be denied coverage!
• The Medicare donut hole, where prescriptions are not covered, is shrinking now & will be gone in 2020!
• “Preventive care” out of pocket costs are eliminated for Medicare & Medicaid!
• Lifetime limits on health coverage are gone!
• Small business tax credits


Effective January 1, 2014 most people will be required to have health care coverage, either with their employer, public benefit programs or purchased through the state health benefit exchange, Covered California. More people will be eligible for Medi-Cal as it limits will increase to 138% of federal Poverty Levels (FPL). Uninsured individuals and families with incomes up to 400% FPL, purchasing through Covered California, are eligible for their premiums to be partially subsidized by the federal government. There is a fine associated for not having insurance, although there are exceptions including if coverage costs are greater than 8% of your income.


Enrollment in Covered California begins October 1, 2013, although coverage is not effective until January 1, 2014. There are many avenues for securing information and assistance including Mendocino Coast Clinics and Safe Passage Family Resource Center. People can apply through staff at the centers, via computer, by telephone or the mail with a 3 page application.
There are 10 Essential Health Benefits that all new policies must cover including:

• Ambulatory patient services (office visits)
• Emergency services & hospitalization
• Maternity & newborn care
• Mental health & substance use services
• Prescription drugs
• Laboratory services
• Prevention, wellness & chronic disease management
• Rehabilitative services & devices
• Pediatric services + oral & vision care


While there are some differences in plans, generally, many preventive services will be available with fewer out of pocket costs and your medical expenses cannot exceed 9.5% of your annual income. Other protections include insurance companies must spend 80% of their income on your health care, you cannot be denied coverage from pre-existing conditions, no gender discrimination and no dollar limits on coverage.


While the insurance requirements for businesses with over 100 full time equivalent employees have been postponed until January 1, 2015, there are benefits for smaller businesses with the Small Business Options Program (SHOP) through Covered California. Qualifying small businesses with less than 50 employees may be eligible for better rates, coverage and tax credits. . Small businesses are not required by the ACA to provide insurance for their employees, so are not subject to fines. If a small business does not offer employee’s insurance, they can acquire it themselves through Covered California.
The two companies providing insurance through Covered California in Mendocino County are Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California. There will be four different levels of coverage available, depending on your health care needs. They range from paying 60% -90% of costs and have varying co-pay’s and options’. There is an additional less expensive catastrophic coverage option for young people under 30 years of age. Geographical region, age and the level of coverage you want determines your rates.


There are many emerging details on the intricacies of the ACA implementation. Two clear sources for more information, in addition to Mendocino Coast Clinics, are www.healthcare.gov and www.coveredca.com. There are videos, fact sheets and brochures available in a variety of languages. Spanish speakers may also want to visit www.asegurate.com. Let us celebrate the goal of building a Healthy Mendocino! Call 964-1251 for more information.

 

MCC’s Irwin Wing Opening draws a crowd!

People of all ages, representing our diverse coastal community, celebrated cutting the ribbon of the Liz Irwin Wing of Mendocino Coast Clinics’ (MCC) new South Street building expansion on April 13.

Lots of laughter, chatter on the changing face of health care and a few tears marked the event as people reflected on Liz and the growth of MCC. Words of wisdom were contributed by Mayor Dave Turner, Paula Cohen, MCC Executive Director and Liz Irwin’s son Patrick Irwin. Patrick traveled from Montréal to accompany Ace Irwin, his father and Wayman Irwin, Patrick’s son, where they braved the wind to watch Jeff Warner, MCC Board Chair, cut the ribbon and unveil the bronze building dedication plaque.

Harpist Roberta Belson played for the crowd, AmeriCorps volunteers and their high school mentees provided “Rethink Your Drink” materials and water as well as an interactive Diabetes presentation. Refreshments, tours and health care information were provided. The Mendocino Coast Chamber of Commerce conducted the ribbon cutting ceremony.

A new wooden Wall of Honor plaque was also unveiled, which will be inaugurated with donations made to MCC in honor of Liz Irwin, Lorel Kay and Betty Smith. All three of these influential women passed within a very short time of each other and had significant roles supporting MCC and its growth. Donations can still be made in honor of these vital community leaders and donor names will added to this commemoration.

Swithenbank Construction and Schlosser, Newberger Architects provided the leadership for the 7,000 square foot addition, was funded by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which is the same legislation that is expanding access to health care for 3 million Californians. This 2.58 million dollar project was primarily completed by local companies and was one of 18 funded in California.

For more information please call 961-3460.
 

Mendocino Coast Clinics expands dental services


Rosa Hernandez, RDAEF II, M’Liss Maxham, DDS, and Kimberly Celeri, RDH show their smiles as they happily serve MCC dental patients.

Mendocino Coast Clinics’ (MCC) building expansion has enabled the community health center to expand its dental care services. The locally built 7,000 square foot addition contains 2 state of the art dental operatories as well as an office for the 4 full time dental providers.

M’Liss Maxham, DDS, is now a full time Dentist, citing the dedication of the MCC staff and this crucial community service as the source of her enthusiasm to assume her new position. She began her career as a Dental Assistant in 1970 and was motivated to go to back to school, while working full time, to become a dentist. With all the current information on the strong relationship between dental health and medical conditions, assuring children has preventive dental care is a priority for her. Since there is no fluoride in the water here, it is especially important to have effective hygiene education and to have fluoride varnish applied regularly.

Kimberly Celeri, RDH, is the new Registered Dental Hygienist and is pleased to be back at MCC, where she previously worked as a medical assistant. As a new mom herself, Kim cites childhood caries as the number one disease affecting children. She points out that prevention and care is important, especially with baby teeth. Kim said that people living in countries like Mexico, where all water has fluoride, don’t get as many caries. She provides oral hygiene instructions to patients of all ages, as well as deep cleaning and periodontal therapy for adults.

Rosa Hernandez, RDAEF II, has recently been promoted to Lead Dental Assistant and just graduated from a new program as a registered dental assistant with extended functions from the University of the Pacific. Rosa began her career at MCC as a temporary receptionist in 1996 and became a dental assistant in 1997. She knew at 12 years of age that she wanted to work in dentistry. This year Rosa juggled her life as a wife, a mother of 5 children and work at MCC to attend school in San Francisco on weekends to accomplish this goal. The new designation will potentially allow her to perform dental procedures that will free up time for dentists. She appreciates working at Mendocino Coast Clinics because staff allows her the flexibility to manage the complex roles in her life.

“I am pleased we are able to provide more vital dental care for the community with the expansion of our building”, said Paula Cohen, Executive Director. “I am very proud to have these three talented women on our team,” she added.

Free or very low cost dental care is available at Mendocino Coast Clinics for those who are income eligible according to federal poverty guidelines. For more information on preventive and primary dental care please call 964-1251.