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DESPITE TRUMP, ACA OPEN ENROLLMENT HAS BEGUN

No, President Trump and the Republican Congress haven‘t “repealed and replaced” President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA), the federal health care law, yet. But yes, as Open Enrollment began on Nov. 1st, there are significant changes than in previous years.

The enrollment period ends on Dec. 15th for coverage through the 2018 Federal Health Insurance Exchange to begin January 1, 2018. This is the shortest enrollment period (45 days) in recent years, so those without health care coverage should act immediately.

To qualify for federal tax subsidies to offset the rising cost of health insurance premiums, those seeking to apply should go online to www.healthcare.gov. Most of those who get their health insurance coverage through the ACA are eligible for what are known as Advanced Premium Tax Subsidies (APT).

In some states, the average ACA health insurance premium is calculated at $662 per month, but after the APT subsidy tax credit kicks in, that comes down to just $129 per month, and in some cases, as low as $87 a month.

In many states last year, enrollment was down. Observers say one of the reasons for the decrease was uncertainty about the future of the ACA, especially after Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, vowing to mothball the federal law, which he and the Republican Congress have repeatedly tried, but failed to do.

The Trump Administration has significantly cut the advertising budget to make more Americans aware of the ACA Open Enrollment period, in addition to shortening it to just 45 days, hoping to slowly phase it out in the future. It has also cut federal funding to nonprofit groups that traditionally helped low-income residents navigate the process of signing up and qualifying.

The White House has also discontinued the cost sharing reimbursements to insurance companies to help offset rising premiums to consumers. As a result, premiums across the nation have gone up anywhere from 15 to 21 percent, according to published reports.

Applicants are generally “…guaranteed to be insurable and are encouraged to sign up for health insurance….” through the ACA if they currently have ACA coverage, but want to change their plan for 2018; they don’t have health insurance through their employer or spouse’s employer; they don’t have government coverage (veterans, Medicaid or Medicare); or they’re older than 26 and are no longer on their parents’ policy.

Failure in having health insurance in 2018 will result in a sizable tax penalty, officials warn. For the past two years, that fee has been $695.00 per uninsured adult, and $347.00 per uninsured child, or 2.5 percent of household income, whichever is higher.

Also keep in mind, per new rules that are now in effect, insurance companies can now deny you coverage if you owe them money on current coverage. You must settle any outstanding balances before you will be re-enrolled.

And you can also be denied the premium tax credit to lower your bill in 2018 if you’re behind in your taxes. To correct this, fill out the federal tax reconciliation IRS form 8962 to determine your 2016 taxable income.

For more information, call 1-800-318-2596, or go to www.healthcare.gov

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More than 50 Dead, 400 Injured in Las Vegas Mass Shooting

Was this an act of terrorism, what do you think? Follow us on Twitter https://twitter.com/sbamerican

Las Vegas authorities have identified Stephen Paddock, a 64 year-old White man from Mesquite, Nevada, as the gunmen in one of the deadliest mass shootings in United States history.

During a brief press conference Monday morning, Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters that more than 50 people were killed and more than 400 people that were wounded during the attack were transported to local hospitals following the attack, according to the New York Times. Police have determined that Paddock fired on the crowd of roughly 22,000 attending a country music festival from his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino Sunday night.

“Online video of the attack outside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino showed the singer Jason Aldean performing outside at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, a three-day country music event, interrupted by the sound of automatic gunfire,” The New York Times reported. “The music stopped, and concertgoers ducked for cover.”

Authorities haven’t reported anything about Paddock’s motive; not much is known about the weapons used in the attack, although some experts have speculated that multiple firearms were used, including a high-caliber, automatic rifle.

Police have reported that Paddock died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

According to NBC News, “The brother of Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock was stunned to learn Monday that his relative was the suspected perpetrator of the largest mass shooting in modern American history. Paddock, who lives in Orlando, said his brother has retired to Mesquite, Nevada and spent his time at the hotels, going to shows and gambling.”

During an interview with NBC News, Paddock said that his brother, “was just a guy” and that the family was “completely at a loss.”

Monday morning, President Donald Trump tweeted, “My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!”

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the American composer and playwright of the award-winning play “Hamilton,” also took to Twitter to share condolences for people affected by the tragedy in Las Vegas.

“Heartbroken by the news out of Las Vegas,” Miranda said. “Praying for those of us waiting for news from loved ones who went to hear live music on a Sunday.”

During an interview with MSNBC, Danny Tarkanian, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Nevada said that the attack was “the worst fear of anybody who has lived in Las Vegas.”

Jamelle Bouie, the chief political correspondent for Slate.com, questioned why authorities hesitated to call the mass shooting an act of terrorism.

“That Las Vegas authorities have ruled out terrorism at this early stage is another example of how the idea has all but been racialized,” Bouie tweeted.

Writer and social media activist Shaun King suggested that the shooter’s “whiteness” prevented authorities from calling him a terrorist, even though he “conducted the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

As some took to social media calling for the mass shooting to be labeled an act of terrorism, others used the tragedy to call for stricter gun control.

Still, most social media users continued to share sympathy and prayers for the concertgoers and their families.

“Don’t even know what to say,” R&B singer Trey Songz tweeted. “To be in Vegas while this is happening, brings a pain to my heart. My team and I are safe Thank God! Prayers up.”

NBA superstar Isaiah Thomas tweeted, “Prayers up for the victims & families of the Las Vegas Shooting! #PrayForVegas”

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., the president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association offered prayers and sympathy, while calling for a deeper conversation about the role that guns play in American society.

“NNPA affirms heartfelt condolences to families impacted by senseless murders in Las Vegas,” said Chavis on Twitter. “End gun violence!”

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NNPA, Pfizer Release Groundbreaking Poll about Sickle Disease in the Black Community

NNPA President and CEO Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. (far left) and NNPA Chairman Dorothy Leavell (3rd from left) joined researchers from Howard University and Pfizer officials to release a new poll on sickle cell disease at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)

A new poll about sickle cell disease (SCD), presented by the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and Pfizer revealed that while the majority of respondents were familiar with the illness, less than 40 percent realized that it disproportionately affects people of African descent.

The NNPA is a trade group that represents more than 200 African American-owned community newspapers operating in the United States. Earlier this year, Pfizer partnered with the NNPA to increase awareness about SCD in the Black community and to encourage greater participation in clinical trials for treatments involving the disease.

The groundbreaking poll also helped to dispel one of the long-held myths about the negative perception of medical professionals in the Black community.

The poll revealed that, despite long-standing historical perceptions of mistrust in medical professionals by the Black community, 91 percent of respondents indicated that they believe health care professionals are trustworthy.

Seventy-nine percent of respondents had positive or neutral attitudes toward sickle cell disease (SCD) trials and a majority indicated a willingness to participate in future clinical trials for SCD, given appropriate knowledge and recommendations from health care professionals.

“Our core belief is that every patient counts, especially when it comes to rare disease,” said Michael Goettler, the global president of Pfizer’s Rare Disease unit. “When you have a rare disease, often you feel lonely and your physician may not be able to help you.”

Goettler noted that the poll results provide a basis for Pfizer to seek more detailed assistance for sufferers.

Even though the greatest burden for SCD, the report said that there’s limited research regarding African-Americans’ knowledge and thoughts about clinical trials that study the health impacts of the illness, the report said.

“These poll findings will give our readers an in-depth understanding of how sickle cell disease is perceived by African-Americans,” said Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., president and CEO of the NNPA. “With this knowledge from the dedicated research team at Howard University, and through our collaboration with Pfizer, we can spur meaningful conversation and assess the best ways to improve disease education for those impacted in our communities.”

Dorothy Leavell, the chairman of the NNPA, said that she’s pleased to be a part of a group delivering “good news,” as well as the research that Pfizer continues to embark upon, on behalf of SCD patients.

SCD is a lifelong and debilitating disorder that affects red blood cells and it’s the most common inherited blood disorder in the U.S. Most people who live with SCD are of African descent and the disease occurs in one out of 365 African-American births.

The median age of death for sickle cell disease patients in America hovers in the mid-40s, said Dr. Kevin Williams, the chief medical officer for Pfizer’s Rare Disease unit. Williams also writes a regular column about SCD for NNPA, titled “Ask Dr. Kevin.”

Williams said that the insight form the poll will not only help researchers determine how to further enhance disease education and awareness, but will also help Pfizer educate SCD patients and their families about the importance of clinical trials in bringing novel treatment options to market for those in need.

The survey was conducted by researchers at Howard University, who made 31,934 telephone calls for the poll that was conducted between June 15 and July 15. A total of 741 individuals aged 20 to 70 living across the country, who identified as being of African-American ethnicity, responded to the survey.

The majority of respondents (79 percent) said they understood the importance of disease education and expressed the need for additional current information, specifically regarding pain relief, clinical trials and progress toward better treatment or a cure.

“It’s not surprising for us that a majority of our participants understood and were previously aware of sickle cell disease,” said Dr. Terri Adams, an associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences at Howard University. “The overwhelming majority understood that it’s a disease, a blood disorder.”

Adams continued: “There was a willingness to participate in [SCD] clinical trials, however, 82 percent had very or somewhat negative attitudes toward clinical trials in general, so there’s still a general mistrust in clinical trials.”

Researchers and officials at Pfizer and the NNPA each said that they hope to continue to educate patients, family members and primary care doctors about SCD clinical trials.

“Close to 20 percent said they were unsure of how it was inherited and this presents a problem,” Adams said. “If you don’t know how it’s inherited, you may be putting your offspring at risk.”

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