By Debbie Teofilo
Special to the Sun
The Kern Valley Healthcare District (KVHD) Board of Directors met on November 1 at Kern Valley Hospital. Discussed at that meeting was the need to inform the public about changed enrollment deadlines under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as well as an upcoming expansion of Kaiser services at KVHD, and the success of a new opioid addiction education program.
Board Member Charlie Busch recommended that the public be informed about changes to the ACA (“Obamacare”) health insurance program enrollment periods for 2018 healthcare plans. There has been much confusion for the public regarding the announcement of a shortened period during which new enrollment and health plan changes can be made.
The federal ACA marketplace at www.healthcare.gov has established a new shortened deadline of December 15 to enroll or change any 2018 services for those living in states using the federal healthcare exchange system. But states with their own exchanges can set different deadlines.
California has its own healthcare exchange at www.coveredca.com, and its deadline for 2018 coverage continues to be January 31 for plans that begin as late as March 1, 2018. However, for new enrollment or changes that need to begin January 1, those applications must be completed by December 15. Free enrollment assistance to navigate this confusing marketplace is available from local certified agents whose names can be found on the Covered California website noted above.
CEO Tim McGlew will meet in a few days with Kaiser Permanente representatives to plan an expansion of KVHD services for the over 1500 Kaiser members living in the KRV. These might include imaging and laboratory services, among others, in addition to the emergency room and physical therapy services currently being provided.
Using funding from a Kaiser Permanente grant, KVHD has been making educational presentations to KRV students from elementary through high school to help prevent opioid addiction. The programs have been well-received and are already having an impact by encouraging students to speak to their parents about the problem. Programs are currently being planned to also educate seniors, providers, and the general community about the dangers of opioids.
The financial status of KVHD continues to be positive, showing a surplus in September of $107,171 due to an increase of ER visits and expenses being under budget. Board Member Barbara Casas discussed Board educational programs available through webinars that keep the Board informed of the ever changing healthcare landscape in a way that is more economical than traveling to off-site training sessions.
The Rural Health Clinic has been undergoing a remodel to add needed exam room space. Board Member Kay Knight commended staff for maintaining excellent service in spite of the disruptions caused by construction activities.
The Kern Valley Hospital Foundation purchased a 70″ television for the Skilled Nursing Facility Day Room to add to the new furniture and window coverings purchased with funds donated by Activities Supervisor Susie Seeger from her successful mayoral campaign during Whiskey Flat Days. The Hospital Auxiliary was able to purchase 10 beds for the hospital from Thrift Store and Gift Shop proceeds.
The next KVHD Board of Directors meeting will be held on Wednesday, December 6 at 6:00 p.m. in the Hospital Administrative Conference Room.