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Drive on to get people health insurance through new marketplace

LACONIA — With the deadline to enroll in the health insurance marketplace of March 31 fast approaching, Health First Family Care and ServiceLink have mounted an campaign to introduce those in Belknap County without coverage altogether or saddled with expensive premiums to the marketplace.

Donna Toomey of Health First and Marian Gill and Allison Hutchins of ServiceLink are all trained and certified to assist individuals and families find their way through the exchange established by the Affordable Care Act. "We want to get out to everybody throughout Belknap County," Gill said, stressing that there is no charge for the services they provide.

While the program is primarily directed at those without health insurance, Toomey said that individuals with coverage, especially those with preexisting conditions assigned to the high risk pool, can secure better coverage at less cost on the exchange. For example, she said that one man was able to reduce his monthly premium from $800 to $362 while another self-employed entrepreneur saved $500 a month.

"For those in the high risk pool the exchange is a godsend," she said, "We're urging everyone to compare their coverage with what is offered on the exchange."

Toomey explained that individuals with earnings between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level qualify for premium tax credits based on the size of their household while those with incomes between 100 percent and 250 percent of poverty are eligible for subsidies to defray out-of-pocket costs, like co-pays and deductibles, with the purchase of particular plans.

Gill said as a certified marketplace assister she can shepherd people through the process of creating an account, verifying their identity, completing an application, determining their eligibility for financial assistance and comparing the different plans. But, she emphasized that the choice of plan rests exclusively with the individuals. "We can help people understand the differences between plans so they can make comparisons, but we cannot direct them to a specific plan."

To reach as many people as possible, Toomey, Gill and Hutchins have held forums, attended events and visited employers. "We'll be at the Tilton Winter Farmers Market, New England Pond Hockey Classic and Great Rotary Fishing Derby in Meredith and Winter Carnival in Franklin," she said. "We'll go where the people are."

Linda Glassett of LRGHealthcare, which is hosting an enrollment fair today between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at Lakes Region General Hospital, said that health insurance is first step of ensuring that patients receive "the right care at the right time and at the right place." She added that LRGH is in the process of hiring a person who, like Toomey, Gill and Hutchins is certified to assist people with the enrollment process.

Those seeking more information about the new healthcare marketplace can contact ServiceLink Resource Center, 67 Water Street, Suite 105, Laconia, NH 03246 at 603-528-6945 or HealthFirst Family Care Center, 22 Strafford Street, Laconia, NH 03246 at 603-366-1070.

Last Updated on Saturday, 25 January 2014 01:48

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Sen. Ayotte covers range of fiscal issues at forum in Laconia

LACONIA — The sustainability of the U.S. Postal Service, the growth of the federal deficit, "Obama Care," and even the Financial Resources Management Inc. Ponzi-scheme were on the minds of the nearly 35 people who attended a town-hall style forum yesterday with U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte.

Ayotte, a Republican, began her program with a PowerPoint presentation about the issues that most concern her — the federal deficit and more recently, her efforts to find alternative savings to pay for an extension of federal unemployment benefits and repeal cuts to military retirement cost-of-living increases for military retirees and their survivors."

"Service members stand to lose thousands in retirement," Ayotte said. "I could not support this."

Ayotte said COLAs to other government retirees were also cut. However, all of those currently in the system are "grandfathered" except the military.

To this end, Ayotte told the audience at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post she has sponsored a bill that would repeal the $6-billion cut in military retirement benefits.

Her bill also proposes that illegal immigrants would be prevented from using child credits unless they can produce valid Social Security numbers.

She claimed there is a "massive fraud" being perpetrated by illegal immigrants who are listing children that aren't in the United States and that may not exist at all as eligible for the child credit.

"Frankly, we should fix this no matter what," she said, voicing her exasperation about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., not even allowing a vote on the matter.

To address the issues raised by the Affordable Care Act — or "Obama Care" — Ayotte she said she is concerned that New Hampshire has only one insurer and that 10 of 26 New Hampshire hospitals are excluded from the exchange, meaning that many people will no longer have access to their current physicians.

She said she voted against it initially and has sponsored or signed on to a number of bills to fix it that range from a complete repeal to reworking portions of the existing bill.

Answering one man's questions, she said she has been having trouble at the state level getting information about the demographics of the people who are signing up for federal health care and worries that a lack of young, healthy people will not provided enough balance the risk pool to make the program sustainable.

She also said much of the health care law is financed by taxes on medical devises that will affect nearly every American in some way.

Responding to questions from the audience, she said the U.S. Post Office has to have the authority to run the organization like a business. She sits on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that oversees the U.S. Postal Service.

She offered her sympathy to one of the victims of the FRM Ponzi-scheme collapse, agreeing in part that the goal of bankruptcy is to protect the victims and not for the trustees, or bankruptcy lawyers, to benefit to a degree greater than the victims.

She took the name of a man who was having some physical problems who was seemingly falling through the health care cracks and told a local man who was concerned about the recent farm bill that she didn't support it as it was written because it gives too many subsidies to wealthy farmers and not enough attention to small dairy farmers like those in New Hampshire.

To one man who feared President Barack Obama was going to issue an executive order requiring registration of all firearms, Ayotte said she was pretty sure that he didn't have that power.

When the man asked her if she would advise gun advocates to disobey any executive order, she said it wouldn't come to that and an emergency injunction would be the remedy. She said she wouldn't support breaking a law simply because someone disagreed with it.

Last Updated on Friday, 24 January 2014 05:15

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Tilton-Northfield & Franklin firefighters busy

TILTON — A one alarm fire on North Windy Road Wednesday night at 7 pm. brought firefighters from five communities to the mobile home park off Lancaster Hill Road.

Officials said when they first crews arrived at 29 North Windy Road, there was smoke throughout the entire modified mobile home and the captain called for a first alarm to bring support and station coverage.

The home was occupied but no one was home at the time of the fire.

Smoke, heat, and water damage was extensive and is estimated to be $150,000.

"The first arriving crew did an excellent job. They knew exactly where the home was located and were able to plan while responding, resulting in a quick and effective mitigation of the hazard," said Interim Chief Michael Robinson.

Fire officials said they have no reason to this the fire was anything but accidental.

Wednesday was a busy day for firefighters in Tilton-Northfield Fire District and the surrounding mutual aid communities, especially Franklin.

At 4:40 p.m. firefighters from both departments responded to a structure fire on Hill Road in Franklin believed to be electrical in nature.

The mobile home was destroyed by smoke and fire. One Franklin firefighter was cut by glass while venting a window. During the fire, the Franklin ladder truck was requested for a house fire in Boscawen but the department was unable to send it there.

At 7 p.m. both department responded to the above fire.

At 1:05 a.m. yesterday, both departments were summoned to a building fire at 18 Auburn Street in Franklin — a multi-unit Victorian home where it appears a chimney fire extended from a second-floor fireplace into the walls.

The fire was quickly extinguished but one firefighter was injured after slipping on ice in the driveway. Chief Kevin LaChapelle commended everyone involved including the Franklin Highway Department who respond with sand for the ice buildup and police who shut down the road.

While fighting the Auburn Street fire, crews were called to an explosion on Evergreen Avenue in Franklin and responders found a pickup completely engulfed in flames that was near a second car and a house.

The truck was extinguished, the was no damage to the surrounding area, and no firefighters were injured.

Last Updated on Friday, 24 January 2014 02:50

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Matthew Tusi accepts sentence of 2 1/2 years to 5

LACONIA — A city man was sentenced to serve 2 1/2 years to five years in prison last week after pleading guilty to three counts of possession of narcotic drugs.

Matthew Tusi, 30, had been arrested on Aug. 7, 2013, after a Belknap County Sheriff's deputy stopped his vehicle on Union Avenue.

Tusi ran, was tasered, and later transported to Lakes Region General Hospital for evaluation. Laconia Police and an off-duty Gilford Police Officer participated in his arrest.

Before he went to trial, attorney Robert Hemeon had argued there was no probable cause for the sheriff's officer to stop Tusi as he had broken no traffic rules. Had he prevailed, all of the drug evidence later recovered from Tusi and his car would have been inadmissible.

After a suppression hearing in which the deputy testified, Judge James O'Neill ruled that the entire encounter he had with Tusi, including a conversation the two had while Tusi was dropping money off to someone at the Belknap County Jail, created enough probable cause to justify the stop.

With the drug evidence admissible at trial, Tusi chose to accept a plea bargain that will see him serve a minimum of 2 1/2 years in the State Prison.

O'Neill accepted Tusi's negotiated plea on Jan. 16. Tusi was given credit for 163 days served.

Last Updated on Friday, 24 January 2014 02:35

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