New online health insurance markets will open this week, as federal health care reforms begin to take effect. Under the law, most people for the first time will be required to buy their own coverage if it's not provided by their employers. But there’s lots of confusion here in the Carolinas thanks to the reluctance of Republican-controlled lawmakers to play along.
The federal government will operate North Carolina's online marketplace for private insurance, because state officials refused. So did those in 35 other states. Nonprofit and community groups are trying to get the word out by meetings in church halls and backyard gatherings. But at the same time, opponents of the health care changes known as Obamacare are fighting back with television ads and their own in-person campaigns.
It’s a similar story in South Carolina, where uninsured South Carolinians can begin signing up Tuesday through the online marketplace. But many residents may have no idea how to do that. Republicans who run the state have actively opposed the process, and South Carolina has spent no money to advertise the exchange.
Still, hundreds of thousands of uninsured South Carolinians are required to sign up for health insurance. Officials of both nonprofits and insurers say they expect chaos and confusion. But supporters stress that people have months to understand their options.
Beginning in 2014, most people will have to pay a penalty if they don't have health insurance. But they have until Dec. 15 to sign up for coverage that starts Jan. 1, and until March 31 to avoid the penalty. (See NPR.org, "Insurance Exchanges Will Open Tuesday to Scrutiny, Confusion," WFAE.org, "Little Competition, High Premiums In NC Health Insurance Marketplace," and WFAE.org "NC Health Insurance Marketplace: Here's What's In Store")
N.C. INFANT DIES OF WHOOPING COUGH
North Carolina health officials on Friday reported the first infant death of 2013 blamed on pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough. The child was three weeks old and lived in Transylvania County. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services says whooping cough is spreading throughout the state, and they’re urging residents to take precautions to prevent more deaths. Infants are too young to be immunized, so officials say its important for anyone who lives around or comes into contact with babies to be up to date on shots. They also advise pregnant women to get a vaccine early in pregnancy, which provides some protection for babies until they’re old enough to get vaccinations. Children should get a series of vaccinations beginning at 2 months and continuing until they are 4 to 6 years old. You can find more information on the website Immunize.NC.gov.
POLICE SHOOT BACK IN N. TRYON ST. INCIDENT
Police exchanged gunfire with a group of armed men in a car early Sunday morning on North Tryon Street. Charlotte Mecklenburg police were sent to the 1800 block of North Tryon Street, just west of the Amtrak Station, around 3:55 AM. A caller reported seeing men in a car loading guns. When police arrived and got out of their patrol cars, the men began shooting at them. Two officers returned fire and the men then fled in their car. Police later spotted the car farther north on Tryon Street and chased it into Cabarrus County, where it was stopped with help from Cabarrus Sheriff’s deputies. A search turned up firearms and three suspects were arrested. Nobody was hurt in the gunfight. Police said they’re investigating the police officers’ use of their weapons to make sure policies were followed. In another incident two weeks ago, a Charlotte officer shot and killed a man who approached police. He’s facing a charge of involuntary manslaughter.
PEDESTRIAN DIES IN PLAZA MIDWOOD
A 55-year-old woman died early Sunday morning as walked across the street at Parkwood Avenue and the Plaza, in Charlotte’s Plaza Midwood neighborhood. The woman was hit by a 2003 Mitsubishi headed east on Parkwood Avenue. The person was not at a crosswalk. Police say alcohol was not a factor for the driver, but may have been a factor with the pedestrian. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's major crash unit is investigating.
2 SENIORS DIE IN EDISTO HOT TUB
Authorities are investigating the deaths of two people whose bodies were found in an Edisto Island hot tub. Police found 80-year-old Ruth Elizabeth Ellis of Michigan, and her friend, 78-year-old Raymond Trewhella of Columbia, dead in a hot tub Friday. The two were in town for a wedding. Autopsies are being performed to determine how the pair died, but Coffey says the deaths aren't considered suspicious.
MT. AIRY CELEBRATES MAYBERRY
The North Carolina town that inspired "The Andy Griffith Show" is bringing Mayberry to life at a weekend festival. Mount Airy’s 24th annual Mayberry Days festival continues today, with guest appearances by Andy Griffith show actors and a bluegrass concert honoring musician Doug Dillard, who played one of the "Darling Boys" on several episodes. There was a parade Saturday, a trivia contest, an apple peel-off, and pork-chop sandwich eating contest.