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East Orange General Hospital Open Enrollment Exceeds Expectations

IMG_9112_EOGH_Sign_UpAll parties involved with the East Orange General Hospital's Healthcare Marketplace Open Enrollment Day Feb. 22 said that they are planning a second date at the nearby East Orange Campus High School March 22.

"We signed up 158 people to health insurance plans," EOGH Vice President of External Affairs Suzette Robinson said to "Local Talk" Feb. 25. "All three participating insurance carriers who were at the hospital Saturday said they are coming back to the high school March 22 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

"Local Talk," going by the 61 seats deployed for public enrollees in EOGH's cafeteria for those same four hours, figured that the public turned over those seats twice during the same 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. period.

Those seats did not include the 48 where clients had one-on-one application sessions with EOGH's Certified Application Counselors. Nor were the 14 seats in the adjacent private cafeteria room surrounding three tables held down by AmeriHealth New Jersey, Health Republic and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of N.J. representatives counted.

The 158 enrollees were actually done within three hours. The opening hour was an introduction of the enrollment process plus an overview of plan offerings from each of the insurance representatives.
158 people enrolled into one of the three carriers' plans or placed onto an expanded New Jersey Medicaid system comes out to an average of 32.8 people interviewed and enrolled per hour.
All medical and civic parties involved may need to place an enrollee in under two minutes, given the March 31 enrollment deadline. Everyone in the U.S. who are not on a current medical insurance plan - or get caught out while changing plans - will face a federal enrollment penalty of either one percent or $95, whichever is greater April 1. That penalty climbs to two percent April 1, 2015.
Some people view the mandatory "enroll or pay a penalty," part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act which President Barack H. Obama promoted and signed in 2010, as un-Constitutional. The Supreme Court upheld the sign-or-pay mandate in 2013.
Given that "fact of life," various EOGH and City of East Orange officials - ranging from hospital CEO Kevin Slavin to city health officer Rochelle Evans - told the public about the "weeks of preparation" that went into Saturday's enrollment session. The effort included training the 24 Certified Application Counselors who came from several hospital departments.
"I thank President Obama for the care act," said Slavin. "More people will be covered and that will translate to less health care costs for everybody."
"Local Talk," in the spirit of participatory journalism, was the 30th person called up to a CAC and her laptop. (Paper applications are available but discouraged - another ACA fact of life.) I gave the counselor what identification and vital statistics I could muster. (You'll need more in case you're forwarded to the three insurance companies.)
My attention was split between the counselor's keyboarding and a live television feed of the U.S. Men's Olympic Hockey Team losing their bronze medal game to Finland until she said, "Congratulations - you've qualified for Medicaid." She handed me a slip with identification numbers to call or log in within two weeks' time.
My actual session with the CAC lasted 10 minutes - and was ready to leave the cafeteria before noon. I did talk with Horizon BCBCNJ's Ron Stephens AmeriHealth's Zemulist Pontoon and Heritage's Argelys Morel on the way out. They said that EOGH's Saturday session was among the best run they were in.
All enrollment parties are heading for the EOCHS cafeteria at 10 a.m.-2 p.m., March 22. Prospective enrollees are to bring the following:

 

- Social Security Card numbers or immigrant document numbers for all household members.
- All household members' birth dates - including the spouse and children under 18.
- Three most current pay stubs, W-2 forms, 1099-forms or "Wage and tax Statements" for all working household members.
- Information on any additional income; unemployment, SSI benefits, etc.
- Any current health insurance plans' policy numbers.
- "Any health insurance information you or your family could get from your spouse's job."

Those are unable to make the March 22 enrollment can qualify or select a plan through three CAC (973) phone numbers: Breon Boseman-Sims at 266-4700, Lynette Massey at 414-3474 and Rafael Ramos at 266-2978. They will be available until April 1.
Those who want to know about the three insurance carriers' plans may log onto:

- Facebook.com/AmeriHealth
- newjersey.healthrepublic.us
- www.HorizonBlue.com

East Orange chamber & hospital join in toy drive

There were about as many people as the 32 seats the East Orange General Hospital staff had set out for the East Orange Chamber of Commerce's annual Holiday Party when "Local Talk" arrived at 7 p.m. Dec. 4.

Only about half the chamber members and their guests, however, were seated in EOGH's Café Six. Chamber officials, hospital officers and civic leaders who were not dining on in-house Culinary Services Chef Elvis' buffet were talking among themselves while listening to the SU Productions trio perform Christmas carols or glancing outside at evening traffic.

EOCOC President Amir Hashemi, EOGH Chief Financial Officer Al Aboud, city council President Quilla Talmadge plus council members Alicia Holman, Sharon Fields and Virginia Cross were among the notables present for at least part of the four-hour party.

"Local Talk" had just entered the EOGH Eastern Pavilion's sixth floor hallway when six people were walking from the café. The six men and women had armloads of toys - 62 by "Local Talk" count - on their way to a storage room.

Those toys, which were on a display table beside a speaker's lectern, will not be in storage long. Both chamber and EOGH officials told "Local Talk" that they will be distributed to children in the latter's program from Dec. 14 onward.

"We'll be giving them out to our children who are in our Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Services," said EOGH Vice President of Behavioral Services Trina Parks. "About two thirds of our CAPS patients are outpatients who come here and the rest inpatients at our Behavioral Health Center (on South Munn Avenue)."

Although the EOCoC will be celebrating its 90th anniversary next year, the toy drive has become one with the chamber's annual party.

"For as long as I can remember, we've always had our holiday party here," said chamber member and Historical Society of East Orange President Goldie Burbage. "For just as long, we've always had the toy drive."

The chamber, which seeks to improve the city's business environment, likely welcomed EOGH as a member not long after the former's 1924 creation. The hospital moved from Newark's Littleton Avenue to 300 Central Ave. in 1926. The area's last independent hospital has become one of its largest employers.

EOGH bought 240 Central Ave. - the former Kessler Rehabilitation/Kim center Building- and rechristened it as its Eastern Pavilion in 2011. It is where the top floor Café Six and its rehabilitation services are now headquartered. Parks explained that CAPS uses the pavilion's first floor whenever its staff are not out helping children and their parents in the city or hospital area.
Both Parks and Hashemi added that they are still welcoming unwrapped toys for children seven- to 17-years-old into Feb. 13. "Local Talk," on its way out, encountered a five-foot-tall toy drop box in the Eastern Pavilion's lobby.

Call EOGH's Parks at (973) 266-4507 for toy drive and/or CAPS details. Hashemi and the chamber can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

East Orange Water in Budgetary Drought

The East Orange Water Commission, which also serves South Orange, is running low on its budget reserve. Fair Lawn-based auditor Dieter P. Lerch, CPA presented to the East Orange City Council at their Dec. 2 committee meeting here in City Hall. Lerch, acting on behalf of the City Clerk's office, gave a 10-minute summary of the EOWC's financial health before the full council and a gallery audience of eight.

"The Commission started Jan. 1, 2012 with a $5 million budget," said Lerch. "It is down to $1.5 million as of Dec. 31, 2012. $1.5 million is an almost dangerously low reserve for it to operate on."

Lerch, whose presentation included fielding questions from council members for five minutes, explained where the $3.5 million went to last year.

"About $1.7 million was lost to customer billing collection and tracking," said Lerch. "The rest went into litigation - of which I can't comment on."

The $1.8 million in litigation may include proceedings by the city and the commission against the Township of Livingston that led to a Jan. 31, 2013 New Jersey State Tax Court ruling in Livingston's favor. Some of that line item may have gone towards separate suits over billing and water quality by South Orange and the City of Newark going back to 2010.

The commission, however, has recently asked the council or a $1 million emergency to cover litigation since Jan. 1, 2013. It is to the understanding of "Local Talk" that part of the $1 million would go to pay the $402,000 fine that the State Department of Environmental Protection had assessed on March 6.

The DEP imposed the fine in response to a Feb. 13 state grand jury indictment on then-EOWC Executive Director Harry L. Mansmann and Assistant Director William Mowell. Mansmann and Mowell, who have since stepped down, are accused of falsifying contaminant levels on 2010-11 water quality reports.

The DEP and South Orange have since conducted separate water quality tests where contaminants have fallen to within state "safe" levels.

Lerch, who is the Orange Municipal Council's budget consultant and an auditor for Nutley Township, then explained why the water commissioners want to tap the council for $1 million.

"The commission has no power to issue bonds or execute capital expenditures," said Lerch. "It can only do so with the full faith and credit of the city and the council. It would otherwise have to consider raising rates, attract new customers and/or cut staff or expenses."

The Trenton-based tax court had ruled that Livingston can bill East Orange and/or EOWC for $2,403,063 in 2009-2010 property taxes. The commission has drawn from 18 wells from the East Orange Water Reserve in Livingston, Millburn and Florham Park since 1909 to serve 92,000 customers in East Orange and South Orange.

The East Orange Water Reserve includes a 95.66-acre lot that Livingston tried to put on the Oct. 29, 2010 auction block for delinquent 2009-10 property taxes. Livingston had recalculated EOWC's 40 property lots' value as part of its Sept. 1, 2009 township-wide reassessment.

The city and commission asserted that the reassessment should have excluded land purchased with state Green Acres funds. Mansmann testified that he received only eight reassessment notices at his office at 99 So. Grove St. in 2009.

The EOWC has meanwhile set its next meeting for 5 p.m. Dec. 10. An agenda, as of 4 p.m. Dec. 3, has not been posted on its web page.

Food Drive Makes Thanksgiving Possible for More Than 250 Families

Thanksgiving2

More than 250 family feasts were assembled at the sixth-annual Family Intervention Services' Thanksgiving Food Drive held Saturday, November 23.

Nearly 80 volunteers were stationed at the FIS office in Denville, where turkey and all the trimmings were assembled into individual care packages for needy families across northern New Jersey who receive FIS services.

"Most of the families we serve live at or below the poverty line," explained Stephan Jackman, Director of Development and Marketing at FIS. "Our staff and volunteers ensure every family gets the full Thanksgiving experience."

The Mendham Junior Women's Club and the Junior League of the Oranges and Short Hills donated full meals including cooking utensils.

"We're truly grateful and honored by such generosity," said Jeanne Warnock, President & CEO of Family Intervention Services. "There has also been a lot of corporate support, from Merrill Lynch to TD Bank, as well as local doctors, dentists, and realty offices who accepted donated items in their waiting rooms on our behalf."

In past years, FIS usually began collecting donations for the Thanksgiving food drive in the beginning of November. But this year, the non-profit made a change.

"We put out the call for donations in October this year, and took a much more proactive approach," Jackman said. "This made a huge impact on our numbers and the amount of people we could reach."

More than 210 of the meals were distributed to FIS families; the remainder was donated to community partners.

Family Intervention Services, Inc. is a private, non-profit organization providing crisis intervention, therapeutic counseling, case management, education and support to New Jersey residents.

First White Linen Restaurant In East Orange In Decades

DSC_1257After many years, there is finally a white linen restaurant in East Orange. The old East Orange Diner and City Metro Diner transformed into a new restaurant right here on Main Street. Now it is The Soul Food Factory.

On October 2, 2013 at 11:30 am East Orange Mayor Robert L. Bowser, East Orange Council President Quilla Talmadge, Councilpersons Ted Green and Virginia M. Cross, City Planner Valerie Jackson joined with owner John Longchamp with many distinguished guests to cut the ribbon and officially open The Soul Food Factory restaurant. I have visited East Orange Diner and City Metro many times, and I think John Longchamp and his family for transforming the place into a sit-down restaurant in East Orange. This is the first white linen restaurant in the city since the inception of Local Talk in November 2000.

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