LETTERS for November 30 issue
Confusion shouldn’t stop patients from buying health insurance
This year’s Affordable Care Act open enrollment period started Nov. 1. Millions of Americans will soon visit HealthCare.gov or the online insurance exchange run by their state to shop for 2018 health plans. Many will be confused by what they find.
Premiums have increased significantly. The most popular silver exchange plans cost 34 percent more, on average, than they did in 2017. Skimpier bronze plans cost 18 percent more. Generous gold plan premiums have risen 16 percent. Many insurers won’t offer exchange plans at all. There will be just a single exchange insurer in nearly half of all counties.
Luckily, Americans don’t have to settle for exchange plans. They can also buy coverage off-exchange. And they may want to consider consulting a certified health insurance agent or broker to determine whether exchange or off-exchange plans are right for them.
Health insurance agents and brokers can help these folks understand the benefits and drawbacks of various plans. Most of these professionals have ten or more years of experience in the industry. Three out of four spend “most” or “a lot of” their time explaining options to clients.
Their services will be even more important this year, given some recent changes to the Affordable Care Act. This year’s open enrollment period in HealthCare.gov only runs 45 days, until Dec. 15.
Americans only have a few weeks to decide on a 2018 health plan. They can ensure they make the right choice by calling in some professional help.
JANET TRAUTWEIN, National Association of Health Underwriters
Rural mental health care must not be overlooked
The challenges that try rural communities in nearly all aspects of health care – greater travel distances, fewer providers, heightened health concerns, lower incomes – also stand in the way of the delivery of behavioral and mental health care services.
While there is not a greater prevalence of mental illness among rural residents, a significant disparity exists in access to mental health services and care for rural populations.
In the United States, there are nearly 4,900 areas with mental health professional shortages. Of these, nearly 54 percent are classified as rural.
A mental health professional shortage area is designated as such by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in cooperation with state partners. This designation provides access to federal funds in the form of scholarships and loan repayments or enhanced reimbursements to providers and clinics for services.
Even with these incentives, it would require more than 1,600 additional mental health providers, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, social workers or psychiatric nurse practitioners to meet the need in rural shortage areas alone.
Efforts to build and maintain an adequate behavioral and mental health workforce are not immune from the circumstances which confront general rural workforce development and retention initiatives.
As the topic of behavioral and mental health draws the attention of Congress and state legislatures in the aftermaths of violent acts and as a facet of the fight of the opioid epidemic, the existing disparity of behavioral and mental health care in rural America must continue to be addressed, starting with building a workforce to meet rural resident needs.
JORDAN RASMUSSEN, Center for Rural Affairs
A message from ERS
I’d personally like to thank all the residents who came out to West Maui Community Association’s (WMCA) Nov. 6 informational meeting to discuss the Employees’ Retirement System’s (ERS) Kaanapali Golf Courses Revitalization Project.
As you know, the ERS, which provides retirement, disability, survivor and other benefits to more than 135,000 members, is proposing modifications to portions of its 305-acre Kaanapali Golf Course properties in West Maui. With an eye toward the future, our intent is to enhance the property’s value to the retirement fund, the resort area and the surrounding community. The proposed development area involves up to 35 acres, encompassing the golf courses and select portions of the property for new residential and resort-related developments.
One of the key messages we continue to convey is that we value your input and are listening intently to what you have to say. We are committed to an open and transparent process and appreciate everyone who shared their views during WMCA’s Nov. 6 meeting or who provided us with their comments via e-mail, or expressed interest in receiving project updates by signing up on our website, www.KaanapaliRefresh.com.
While we continue to receive feedback on our proposed project, we also greatly appreciate you sharing what matters to you and your families – not just today but for future generations as well.
What we’ve heard so far are frustrated families, including our ERS members, who are fed up with the status quo in West Maui – lack of affordable housing, continuous traffic congestion, delayed infrastructure projects – and concern for the future of your keiki.
The ERS is willing to work within your community of stakeholders to find solutions to these existing issues. The challenge we, along with other developers and government agencies face, is that the complexity of these concerns requires a concerted group effort from the state and county government and the private sector, including developers, the business community and concerned citizens. It will mean finding a place of balance, where projects and programs can still remain economically viable while producing important benefits for our citizens.
As challenging as it is now, it will be more difficult to resolve many of our island’s problems long-term if they are not addressed starting today.
As a related matter, the ERS understands that we are responsible for addressing impacts created by our proposed modifications of the golf courses. We look forward to working with government and the community to identify and develop potential solutions.
Our ERS Kaanaapali revitalization project is clearly not a done deal. Nor is the plan that we originally proposed set in stone. Already the ERS is considering modifications based on conversations and feedback received from you.
Our hope is that we can work together as one group to realize a safer, healthier and prosperous future for West Maui’s citizens. It is your future, and we hope that ERS and its members can be a part of this important effort.
THOM WILLIAMS, ERS Executive Director