Tag Archives: obamacare

Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup


Wednesday: Cloudy. High near 60. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph.Wednesday night: A few clouds. Low 41. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Noguchi Archaic/ Noguchi Modern

The Noguchi Museum has an exhibition on view of Noguchi’s work from archaic times to modern times.  The only thing Noguchi loved more than the promise of the future was the sense of belonging to the Earth he derived from working with million and billion year old pieces of rock. Noguchi Archaic/ Noguchi Modern explores a stylistic wormhole that seems to link the ancient past and the distant future in his work. Through August 31. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Family of slain Queens man forgives accused killer

The family of a man who was fatally stabbed at a Queens barbershop last week spoke publicly outside of their home on Tuesday to let the alleged killer know they have forgiven him. Read more: CBS New York

De Blasio: state funding might not cover after-school plan

Mayor de Blasio celebrated landing significant state funding for city pre-K programs Tuesday, but wouldn’t say whether the new budget will allow him to expand after-school programs for middle grades, as he initially planned. Read more: New York Post

NYU report finds flawed business model at Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

A new report has found the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s business model is flawed and needs significant change. Read more: CBS New York

Butt-inject ‘killer’ charged with injuring 2nd victim

An unlicensed beautician accused of killing a client with an illegal buttocks injection has also been indicted on an assault rap for injuring a second victim, according to papers unsealed Tuesday in Manhattan Supreme Court. Read more: New York Post

President Obama said 7.1M Americans signed up for Obamacare, exceeding expectations

With an I-told-you-so swagger, President Obama said Tuesday that 7.1 million Americans signed up for health insurance by Monday’s deadline – exceeding the original White House goal under Obamacare. Read more: New York Daily News

Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup


Monday: Rain and snow showers this morning. Then becoming partly cloudy this afternoon. High near 55. Winds N at 15 to 25 mph. Chance of rain 70%. Monday night: Clear skies. Low 34. Winds N at 15 to 25 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: The Kaleidoscope

“The Kaleidoscope” starts at 8:00 p.m. at The Creek and the Cave at 10-93 Jackson Ave. in Long Island City. The Kaleidoscope is an experiment where friends and strangers get together and perform. Four improvisers create teams with whom they have never performed and will never exist again. Like a kaleidoscope:, every time you look you will see something different. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

New York City Council to hold hearing on Superstorm Sandy recovery

Members of the de Blasio administration and people affected by Superstorm Sandy are expected to speak Monday morning at a City Council oversight hearing. Read more: CBS New York

Report: Unpaid tolls rose on no-cash NYC bridge

The amount of uncollected tolls on a New York bridge skyrocketed after electronic E-ZPass systems replaced all cash toll lanes, according to a published report. Read more: NBC New York

With pre-k fight behind him, de Blasio to shift focus to affordable housing

Now that state lawmakers have closed a budget deal to fund prekindergarten in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio is ready to turn to the next items on his sweeping liberal agenda. Read more: CBS New York/AP

Bratton raps Kelly and Bloomberg on stop and frisk

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton turned on the city’s former leaders Sunday, saying the department had a terrible morale problem when he took over because of the way his predecessor, Ray Kelly, and former Mayor Bloomberg used stop-and-frisk. Read more: New York Post

Obamacare website down as deadline arrives

People trying to apply and enroll for private health insurance through Obamacare before Monday’s midnight deadline are discovering the website is “currently unavailable.” Read more: NBC News

Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup


Wednesday: Partly cloudy. High 53. Winds light and variable. Wednesday night: Cloudy. Low 46. Winds ESE at 5 to 10 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Someone Once Called Me A Sound Man

The Chocolate Factory concludes its Fall 2013 season with Jon Kinzel’s dance piece, which integrates kinetic, auditory and visual elements while also exploring broader social issues related to identity, gender, language, culture and history. Wednesday, December 4- Saturday, December 7. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Cop charged with extorting Astoria restaurant owner

An NYPD officer and two people were arrested and charged with Hobbs Act extortion of $24,000, attempted Hobbs Act extortion and brandishing a firearm against a Astoria restaurant owner. Read more: The Queens Courier

Police: Man caught with stolen cash register on LIRR train 

Police arrested a man acting suspiciously on a Long Island Rail Road train Tuesday, and discovered he was carrying a stolen cash register. Read more: CBS New York

Mayor, Chancellor tout improved SAT and AP scores

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott were in Brooklyn Tuesday to highlight improving Regents, SAT and AP test scores among high school students. Read more: CBS New York

DOH turns up volume on loud headphone risks

The city Department of Health is warning New Yorkers about the risk of hearing loss when listening to loud music on headphones. Read more: NY1

Billy Joel to play open-ended run at Madison Square Garden

Exactly how much Billy Joel does New York want? We’ll soon find out since Joel and the Garden announced Tuesday that, starting in January, The Piano Man will begin playing one show a month, for “as long as the audience demands,” the star said. Read more: New York Daily News 

Obama launches strategy to move past health care woes

Seeking to regroup from his health care law’s disastrous rollout, President Barack Obama on Tuesday insisted that the sweeping overhaul is working and warned Republican critics that he would fight any efforts to strip away its protections. Read more: AP

Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup


Thursday: Partly cloudy in the morning, then overcast. High of 48. Breezy. Winds from the WSW at 15 to 20 mph. Thursday night: Partly cloudy. Low of 39. Winds from the WSW at 5 to 15 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: D.B. Rielly at Winegasm

D.B. Rielly will perform a wide-ranging collection of Americana music, spanning several genres including Roots, Blues, and Country at Winegasm in Astoria at 9 p.m. D.B. promises his listeners an “instantaneous cure for all afflictions.” Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

‘Frisk’ judge Shira Scheindlin gets hushed by federal appeals panel

The appeals panel that booted a federal judge from the stop-and-frisk case said Wednesday it won’t let her defend herself in court. Read more: New York Daily News

Five bikers accused in alleged road rage incident appear in court

Five of the bikers who were allegedly involved in a September 29, road rage incident appeared in court on Wednesday. Read more: CBS New York

4 World Trade Center officially opens with ribbon cutting

The office tower at 4 World Trade Center has opened in lower Manhattan. A ribbon-cutting was held this morning for the 978-foot building. Read more: ABC New York

Obamacare enrollment low; Democrats unhappy

Add simmering Democratic discontent to the problems plaguing “Obamacare,” now that first-month enrollment figures are out. Read more: AP

Verizon data network problems

If you can’t get on the web or download files on your Verizon cell phone as quickly as you once could, there is a reason. Read more: Fox New York


Jamaica Hospital ready for Obamacare

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Residents looking for more information about insurance under the new Affordable Care Act need not search too far.

Officials from Jamaica Hospital said they are planning to reach out to the community to help people learn about plans under New York State of Health, the state’s dedicated health care marketplace under the health care reform law.

“The hospital wants to be a resource for the community in helping them understand,” said Michael Hinck, Jamaica Hospital spokesperson.

Jamaica Hospital will send officials to explain New York State of Health to community groups, answer questions about insurances plans and try to eliminate any “confusion” residents may have.

They will also post information about the marketplace on the hospital’s website and they plan to add a dedicated phone line so people can call with any questions.

Hinck added hospital staffers have been trained to be knowledgeable about the new health care law and New York State of Health so they can answer patients’ questions when they come for care.

With more people having access to health insurance, officials acknowledge that it will increase the number of patients coming to the hospital, but they believe Jamaica can withstand the surge.

“January first is a little bit of an unknown,” said David Evangelista, director of managed care at Jamaica.

“I think Jamaica Hospital more so than most should be well positioned to serve the population.”



Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup


Friday: Overcast with rain showers, then a chance of rain in the afternoon. High of 70. Windy. Winds from the SW at 20 to 25 mph with gusts to 40 mph. Chance of rain 90% with rainfall amounts near 0.3 in. possible. Friday night: Clear in the evening, then overcast. Low of 55. Winds from the WSW at 5 to 15 mph shifting to the NNW after midnight.

EVENT OF THE DAY: “Raus! Get Outta Here!” 

The Eclipses Group Theater, in collaboration with The Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater NY, presents “Raus! Get Outta Here!” a play by M. Reppas and T. Papathanasiou. The play satirizes the current social milieu and financial problems currently affecting Greece. Performances are at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 3 p.m. on Sundays from November 1 -30. at the Stathakeion Cultural Center in Astoria. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Federal court grants stay on stop-and-frisk decision

A federal court halted the decision that requires reforms to the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk practice. Read more: The Queens Courier

New York City school suspensions drop by 23 Percent

The number of New York City students suspended from school has dropped by 23 percent. Read more: NBC New York

Judge prepares to take on NYPD, Queens D.A. in court

The NYPD was dealing with another controversy involving a judge on Thursday night. Read more: CBS New York

Only 6 able to sign up on healthcare.gov’s first day, documents show

Only six people were able to enroll for health insurance through the Obamacare website on the first day, according to documents released Thursday by Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Read more: NBC New York

Bidding on $50 Banksy painting tops $310,000

Bidding on a painting that British graffiti artist Banksy bought for $50 and altered has climbed to more than $310,000. Read more: AP




Obama acknowledges issues with healthcare website

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Screenshot via YouTube/The Whitehouse

Although it was created to solve problems, Obamacare has been through a rough couple of weeks following the marketplace launch.

People have complained about website crashes and other issues on healthcare.gov, where residents can find information about the Affordable Care Act or sign up for new health insurance coverage.

The website has suffered because of the vast number of people who browsed in the first three weeks, about 20 million, but the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is working to resolve the errors, said President Barack Obama during a speech at the White House on Monday.

“The problem has been the website that’s supposed to make it easy to apply for and purchase the insurance is not working the way it should for everybody,” Obama said. “I think it’s fair to say that nobody is more frustrated by that than I am.”

Obamacare was at the center of a congressional stalemate that shutdown the government for more than two weeks and nearly caused the country to default on its debt. And recently some people have complained about a phone number similar to the 24/7 healthcare hotline, which is actually a sex line.

If someone dials 1-800-382-5968 (F–K YOU), a female voice prompts a list of choices.

“If you are trying to reach Obamacare press one,” she says. “If you are not trying to reach Obamacare press two.”

Anyone daring to try the second choice will be transferred to “1-888-FREE SEX,” where they will be given choices between straight or gay phone sex.

The number is not connected to the healthcare marketplace hotline, according to representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid that talked to The Courier. The agencies were unsure why the phone number issues that message and said residents trying to reach the hotline should hang up and dial the real number: 1-800-318-2596.

But despite all the issues, Obama promised the Affordable Care Act is benefitting “thousands” of people and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced on October 22 that a team of tech experts has been brought in to fix errors with the website.

The national healthcare website has been giving trouble, but New York residents should visit nystateofhealth.ny.gov to purchase health insurance.



Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

The Queens Morning Roundup logo.


Tuesday: Overcast. High of 68. Winds from the West at 10 to 15 mph. Tuesday night: Partly cloudy with a chance of rain after midnight. Low of 48. Winds from the NW at 5 to 10 mph shifting to the North after midnight. Chance of rain 50%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Quality-of-Life Town Hall with Assemblymemeber Francisco Moya and the Jackson Heights Green Alliance

Assemblymember Francisco Moya and the Jackson Heights Green Alliance will host a Town Hall featuring a panel comprised of representatives from an array of city agencies, state agencies and community groups. The event will provide Jackson Heights residents with the opportunity to address these representatives on a wide range of issues and discuss ways in which quality of life in the community can be improved. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Joe Lhota, Bill de Blasio square off in 2nd NYC mayoral debate

Facing a massive deficit in the polls, Joe Lhota plans to be on the attack in the second New York City mayoral debate, which doubles as one of his last chances to start a comeback that could topple front-runner Bill de Blasio. Read more: NBC New York

MTA considers bendable trains that connect without interior doors, making it easier to find a seat

The MTA will consider subway trains that connect without interior doors, making it easier for riders to move from car to car in search of seats. Read more: New York Daily News

Baby Hope’ murder suspect due in court

The man charged with second-degree murder in the Baby Hope case will appear in court Tuesday. Read more: ABC New York

Mayor Michael Bloomberg wins ‘Jewish Nobel’ prize

Israel on Monday recognized New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg as the first recipient of the $1 million Genesis Prize, an award popularly dubbed the “Jewish Nobel Prize.” Read more: Fox New York

Builders of Obama’s health website saw red flags

Crammed into conference rooms with pizza for dinner, some programmers building the Obama administration’s showcase health insurance website were growing increasingly stressed. Read more: AP

Political Roundup: Officials rally for instant runoff voting

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com



Local officials rally for ‘better, smarter, fairer’ instant runoff voting

New York City lawmakers and advocacy groups rallied on the City Hall steps Wednesday to again push for an instant runoff system. Read more: CBS New York

Obamacare sites look to improve after bumpy 1st day

For millions of Americans trying to log in, the online insurance marketplaces created by the new health care law began with a stalled website, an error message or a menu that didn’t work. Read more: AP

Obama calls 1st meeting with congressional leaders on shutdown

With much of the federal government paralyzed for a second day, President Obama will meet with congressional leaders today in search of a way to end the government shutdown and increase the debt ceiling. Read more: ABC News

State schools chancellor Merryl Tisch: no rent for charters

The state’s high-profile, reform-minded schools chancellor Tuesday slammed Bill de Blasio’s campaign pledge to charge city charter schools rent. Read more: New York Daily News

Justices to weigh key limit on political donors

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision reshaped American politics by striking down limits on independent campaign spending by corporations and unions. Read more: New York Times

Hillary Clinton hailed the ‘queen’ of the presidential pack in Quinnipiac poll

A new Quinnipiac poll shows Hillary Clinton as the “queen of the 2016 mountain,” getting nearly six times more support among Democrats than Vice President Joe Biden in a presumed matchup. Read more: New York Daily News 


Ackerman backs Vallone 

Former Congressmember Gary Ackerman endorsed Paul Vallone for City Council District 19 on September 26.

“I know the people and the neighborhoods of northeast Queens like the back of my hand, which is why I know Paul Vallone is the right choice to help preserve our precious quality of life and protect the middle-class families who live here,” Ackerman said.

Ackerman retired this January after having served 15 terms in Congress.

He had endorsed Vallone’s rival, Austin Shafran, back in July for the Democratic primary election.

Vallone beat Shafran by nearly 200 votes after a final vote count, though the hard-fought race came down to the wire.

The Flushing attorney now faces Republican challenger Dennis Saffran in the November general election.

“Now more than ever, the people of the 19th City Council District need a leader who can deliver the resources this district deserves,” Ackerman said. “There is no doubt that Paul Vallone is the right man for the job.”


Affordable Care Act: Exchange sign up starts October 1

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

The first dose of the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed Obamacare, is nearly ready to start rolling.

People can sign up for health insurance through the Health Care Marketplace starting on Tuesday, October 1, which will take effect when provisions of the legislation start on January 1, 2014.

The sign-up period will continue until March 31, and consumers can apply for Marketplace coverage online, by mail or in-person.

The Marketplaces work either through individual state health departments or with the United States Department of Health and Human Services in 36 states. In New York consumers have to go to www.nystateofhealth.ny.gov if they want to apply for coverage under the Marketplace.

Prices and applications in the Marketplace will be available on October 1.

The exchanges are designed to help people find lower premiums. The system gathers all available insurance options in the state and rates them in a simple structure– bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Bronze plans will be the cheapest with the fewest benefits, while platinum will be the most expensive.

This week the national health department released a report that said the plans on the exchanges will make insurance premiums on average more affordable.

Obamacare will force companies to drop discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, so for example people with diabetes or asthma won’t be charged larger premiums or refused coverage.

Some provisions of the health care reform act are already in action, such as children being able to stay on their parents’ health care plan until age 26.

Since the legislation was designed to help people without insurance find coverage by making it more affordable, if someone already has a private health care plan or receives care through another method, such as a company plan, they will not need to apply for a new plan from the exchanges.

Someone who does not have health insurance by January 1 will have to pay a fee of one percent of their income or $95, whichever is higher, and the fee for each uninsured child is $47.50, with a cap of $285 per family. This fee will increase every year, but there are ways to be exempted, such as being a member of a religious sect that has objections to insurance.

Republican leaders have been trying to delay Obamacare, saying that it will be too costly and raise taxes. Senator Ted Cruz held a marathon 21-hour speech in opposition to the legislation from Tuesday, September 24 to September 25.

For more information visit: https://www.healthcare.gov.



Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup


Wednesday: Clear. High of 73. Winds from the North at 5 to 10 mph. Wednesday night: Overcast in the evening, then partly cloudy. Low of 55. Winds less than 5 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Moving Screening at Laughing Devil Comedy Club

Long Island City’s Laughing Devil Comedy Club invites you to grab a bite, toss back a drink and enjoy the best in classic comedy films on our massive new screen. This Wednesday night’s movie is “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Anthrax scare at Queens Criminal Court after Tylenol sent as ‘joke’ arrives in powder form

A boneheaded prank by an assistant district attorney against a fellow prosecutor set off an Anthrax panic in Queens Criminal Court Tuesday, law enforcement sources said. Read more: New York Daily News

Judge: Rent Too High candidate goes on NYC ballot

A man who wants to run for mayor as the Rent is Too Damn High Party’s candidate should be on the general election ballot, a judge has decided. Read more: NBC New York

City Council bill would ban employers from Facebook friending job seekers, employees

Some City Council members are trying to make sure that you don’t have to be friends with your boss — at least not on Facebook. Read more:  New York Daily News

Some 4,500 cabbies with more than 6 points on their license still driving due to computer glitch

If you’ve ever wondered if your cab driver should be behind the wheel, the answer might well be no. Read more: CBS New York/AP

Humpback whales ‘hanging out’ near the Rockaways

Humpback whales have been spotted just a few hundred yards from the Queens shoreline. Read more: CBS New York

 Senator Cruz rails through night against Obamacare

Republican Senator Ted Cruz slogged into the second day of his marathon attack on Obamacare from the Senate floor on Wednesday, showing almost no signs of relenting after speaking for nearly 16 hours. Read more: Reuters 


Op-Ed: Small biz are engines that drive the economy

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


It has never been easy to run a business in New York City, one of the most taxed and regulated places on the face of the earth. Here in Queens, where small business is the backbone of the economy, this is going to be, to put it mildly, a challenging year.

Payroll taxes have taken a bite out of paychecks and business checkbooks. The cost of Obamacare is kicking in and federal tax rates hit us harder, because it costs more to survive here, whether you’re trying to run a food cart or a factory.

Customers have less to spend and business taxes, expenses and insurance costs keep going up, along with the cost of compliance with every rule and code, no matter how high-handedly administered.

Job creators deserve tax breaks because job opportunities are critical to the future of our borough. A tax deduction for each employee would help small businesses and create more jobs. But you have to be making a profit for a tax break to be meaningful. Too many businesses are struggling to stay afloat. They aren’t hiring.

If they continue to be overtaxed and over-regulated, some businesses with good jobs will leave and others will open shop somewhere less expensive than New York City. Some will close and more will struggle to keep the doors open, leading to even fewer jobs and a more depressed economy.

But for every trickle-down tax break, the government makes a full-scale effort to legislate good jobs, frequently at the urging of people who never made a job that wasn’t paid for by taxpayers or contributors.

Legislation setting a “living wage” and mandating paid sick leave may have been motivated by compassion, but whatever benefits will come at the cost of more than just jobs. We need to take a hard look at that cost because there’s nothing compassionate about more joblessness or small businesses closing their doors for good.

Our small businesses are not ATMs for the government, but the engines that drive our economy. Ask a business owner in Queens and they’ll tell you that they want their business to grow. But you also hear business owners tell you that they aren’t being heard or helped by government as much as tormented and taxed.

We need jobs and it doesn’t make sense to cripple our small businesses with burdensome regulation, punitive enforcement and staggering fines. If a minor violation is discovered by an agency inspector, a reasonable amount of time should be given for the owner to cure the violation, especially if there is no danger to the public or the employees. These fines on small businesses are shortsighted sources of revenue for the government, money that would be better be spent creating better jobs.

What can the small business owner do, besides pay and pay? You can join local business associations like the Queens Chamber of Commerce, where you can get help from people who have been in business and add your voice to theirs in bringing your concerns to the government. You can get in touch with your elected officials and tell them how the laws and rules and taxes and fines are working out.

We’re fighting to make Queens a center of commerce and help build prosperity for ourselves and for future generations. We’re the gateway to the Capital of the World, where people come to seek a better life.

To do those things and help those people, we need jobs. We need to help business do it because the government can’t make enough jobs on its own, even in New York City where we have the federal, state and city government trying. Our small businesses are a big part of the answer and it’s time for the government to stop adding to the problem of creating good jobs.

Every business owner knows that if you overcharge and underserve, you fail.  We need government to get that same message when it comes to promoting business growth – and job creation.  So far, it hasn’t heard it.



The Elder Law Minute: How Will The Election Results Affect Seniors?

| rfatoullah@queenscourier.com

By Ronald A. Fatoullah, Esq. and Yan Lian Kuang-Maoga, Esq.

Now that President Barack Obama has won a second term, what does it mean for seniors? What impact, if any, are seniors to expect with regard to long-term care costs and estate taxes? The good news is that his re-election means Medicare and Medicaid as we know them will likely be preserved for at least the next four years. However, with regard to estate, gift and generation skipping transfer taxes, we will have to wait for the final results. As of the writing of this column, President Obama and John Boehner are busy negotiating these issues. Only time will tell if we go over the so-called “fiscal cliff” or if Congress can put together a responsible fiscal plan that increases revenues while preserving important governmental entitlements that seniors rely on.

One of the biggest outcomes of the election is that the Affordable Care Act (ACA – a.k.a. “Obamacare”), which candidate Mitt Romney had promised to repeal, will almost certainly remain the law in our country. For seniors, the law has already begun to close the gap in Medicare’s prescription drug coverage known as the “doughnut hole,” and has been providing free preventative care for Medicare recipients. The ACA also included a number of provisions aimed at improving long-term care and helping recipients remain in their homes instead of being forced into nursing homes. These provisions will continue to be carried out.

On January 1, 2013, the terms of the Budget Control Act of 2011 will take effect (commonly referred to as going over the “fiscal cliff”) unless Congress acts to avoid it. Failing to act will bring about automatic tax increases and spending cuts agreed to as part of last year’s deficit reduction deal. Although Medicare and Medicaid will likely maintain their current structures, cuts may be made as a result of current negotiations. President Obama reportedly offered to increase the Medicare age to 67 in last year’s budget negotiations with Republicans.

According to a Reuters article, congressional Republicans are also expected to ask for concessions from the ACA, including delaying and scaling back the planned expansion of Medicaid. In addition, state lawmakers, many of whom are Republican, will decide how the ACA is carried out. Thirty states have Republican governors, some of whom have said that they will opt out of the Medicaid expansion provided for in the ACA. But President Obama’s re-election may boost the prospects for expansion, and prod reluctant states to move forward with the expansion, according to Kaiser Health News

With regard to estate taxes, if Congress fails to act the federal estate and gift tax exclusion is scheduled to be reduced from its current level of $5.12 million to only $1 million ($2 million for a couple). President Obama has proposed to set the federal estate and gift tax exclusion at $3.5 million ($7 million for a couple). New Yorkers must be reminded to engage in estate planning because even if the federal estate and gift tax exclusion does not revert back to $1 million, New York State has its own estate tax and will tax estates over $1 million.

While the re-election of President Obama provides some security to seniors with regard to the preservation of Medicare and Medicaid to pay for long term care costs, much is still up in the air. Now more than ever, seniors owe it to themselves and their families to get their affairs in order and to establish an elder law and estate plan in order to protect assets for themselves as well as their heirs.

Ronald Fatoullah is a leading expert in the fields of elder law & estate planning. He is the founder and managing attorney of Ronald Fatoullah & Associates, a law firm concentrating in elder law, estate planning, Medicaid eligibility, special needs, trusts, guardianships, & probate. He is certified as an elder law attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation, and he is the current Legal Committee Chair of the Long Island Alzheimer’s Association. The firm’s offices are conveniently located in: Long Island, Queens, Manhattan & Brooklyn and can be reached at: 1-877-Elder Law 1-877-Estates. This article was written with the assistance of Yan Lian Kuang-Maoga, Esq., an elder law attorney with the firm.

To your health

| brennison@queenscourier.com

It’s like the 1960s all over again.

As the United States Supreme Court upheld parts of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA), it harkened back to June of 1965, when the country — and our bipartisan elected officials — were divided over Medicare.

With a Cold War mentality, many feared that Medicare meant socialism — and the end of freedom as they knew it.

Today, millions of seniors depend on the coverage afforded them by Medicare, and claims the system is going bankrupt have spurred fears — and talks on how to keep Medicare solvent for an aging population.

We feel the Supreme Court’s ruling that ACA is constitutional transcends partisan politics and concerns itself with the people.

And that’s the bottom line.

All people should have access to health insurance, regardless of income, age, race — or existing conditions.

The ACA does just that.

By creating a “health care exchange,” individuals and small business owners will be able to select from a range of affordable heath care options.

Through these exchanges individuals with pre-existing conditions will not be charged higher rates and they won’t lose coverage if they get sick.

All businesses, except those with fewer than 50 employees, will be required to provide insurance to their workers.

But small businesses under the cut line — 340,000 which are eligible in New York — that do offer insurance can quality for a 35 percent tax credit, which will increase to 50 percent in 2014 if they enroll through the exchanges.

Going forward, companies can no longer impose lifetime limits on care or charge higher rates for children with pre-existing conditions.

And young adults that already receive coverage through their parents can remain on those plans until the age of 26.

Starting in August, insurance companies will also be required to cover women’s preventive services, including contraception.

What this all means, we feel, is that power has been given back to the people.

No longer will families fret over mounting medical bills.

No longer will parents of children born with conditions be forced to file bankruptcy — just to ensure their child gets the medical attention he or she needs.

And no longer will American people have to choose between a medical procedure or food on the table.

What this is is not socialism — it is the beginning of a healthier, fairer America.

Affordable Care Act: What it means for immigrants

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

When Sunnyside resident Blanca Palomeque had ovarian cancer two years ago she didn’t have full health insurance to cover her treatment.

She enrolled in the Medicaid Spenddown program, but it only provided her with six months of assistance and she was forced to pay $15 out of pocket for each visit to Elmhurst Hospital and $150 for each CAT scan during the next year-and-a-half of her battle.

Even after winning the war with the disease earlier this year, Palomeque, 49, still didn’t buy an insurance plan.

“I don’t have medical care, because it’s difficult to have it,” Palomeque said. “I don’t qualify for Medicaid health insurance, because my income is a little too high, and it’s difficult to afford private care.”

Instead, Palomeque, who emigrated from Ecuador 11 years ago and is a documented immigrant, prefers to pay for hospital visits instead of committing to a plan.

However, like many Queens immigrants, she is rejoicing after the Supreme Court’s recent approval of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), praising its expansion of the health care system, which will benefit legal residents and may even help undocumented immigrants. “I think it’s a really good idea, because now the community will be able to act fast on health insurance,” Palomeque said. “Sometimes people have illnesses that last a long time and it’s really difficult to go and pay each time.”

“As an organization we believe that it’s a step forward, because it opens up access to health care and health insurance to many people who are uninsured,” said Theo Oshiro, deputy director of Make the Road New York, which is a non-profit organization that predominately supports Latin immigrants in the city.

Of the approximately 2.2 million residents living in the borough, nearly 50 percent are foreign born, according to the 2010 Census, and documented immigrants will receive the same benefits from the act as native citizens.

This means they won’t have to worry about getting insurance if they have pre-existing conditions, and now their children can remain on their current plans until age 26.

Documented immigrants must also follow the mandate that requires everyone to have insurance or face a tax.

But if they don’t already have insurance or qualify for Medicaid, they will be able to purchase health care from the state-run “exchanges,” or collections of low rate insurance options when they become available in 2014.

“They just have to worry about everything they worried about before,” said Stan Mark, senior staff attorney for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. “They have to struggle to get the minimal health care option that they can get.”

New York, which was one of the states that chose to expand its Medicaid coverage through ACA, will receive more than $2 billion in federal funding starting in 2014, and many immigrants will continue to receive care from it.

Immigrant groups officials say the down side to ACA is that it none of its benefits are available for undocumented immigrants, which could upset many foreign born residents.

But the law will affect them.

In 2003 Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued executive orders, (EO) 34 and 41, which replaced former Mayor Ed Koch’s EO124, but kept the same concept to protect immigrants.

The order “Ensures that all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, can access the city services that they are entitled to receive.” In addition, “City workers must protect the confidentiality of a person’s immigration status,” unless that person is suspected of illegal activity.

It was established so that undocumented immigrants would report crimes to the police, call firefighters, get medical treatment or send their children to school without fear of deportation.

Because of EO 34 and 41, undocumented immigrants have received care from public hospitals under the Health and Hospital Corporations (HHC), such as Elmhurst Hospital or Queens Hospital Center, and will continue to do so.

“For generations New York has been known as a city of immigrants, and for generations the public hospitals have cared for New York’s immigrant populations,” said HHC President Alan Aviles. “It is important to remind immigrant New Yorkers that they can get quality health care in our city without fear.”