New Obamacare Headache: Is Your Enrollment Real?

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Bob Shlora of Alpharetta, Ga., was supposed to be a belated Obamacare success story. After weeks of trying, the 61-year-old told ABC News he fully enrolled in a new health insurance plan through the federal marketplace over the weekend, and received a Humana policy ID number to prove it.

But two days later, his insurer has no record of the transaction, Shlora said, even though his account on the government website indicates that he has a plan.

“I feel like this: My application was taken … by a bureaucrat, it was put on a conveyor belt and it’s still going around, and it’s never going to leave the building,” he said. “I’ve lost hope. If it happens, great.”

Obama administration officials acknowledged Monday that some of the roughly 126,000 Americans who completed the torturous online enrollment process in October and November might not be officially signed up with their selected issuer, even if the website has told them they are.

Technical problems surrounding the transfer of an applicant’s personal information from the federal marketplace to the selected insurance company have plagued the system since its launch, making it difficult for insurers to finalize some enrollments. The 834 forms that issuers receive from the system have been riddled with errors, including often duplicate or incomplete information.

While the front-end of the website has been vastly improved, the back-end glitches remain a serious concern, IT experts and industry officials say.

“Until the enrollment process is working from end-to-end, many consumers will not be able to enroll in coverage,” said Karen Ignani, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans. “In addition to fixing the technical problems with, the significant ‘backend’ issues must also be resolved to ensure that coverage can begin on Jan. 1, 2014.”

Meanwhile for consumers, it’s all turning out to be a giant headache. Shlora, who currently pays $2,800 a month for health care, told ABC News the “false braggadocio” coming from the White House is making it worse.

“The White House announced that they have met their goal,” he said of the much-touted improvements to the website. “They are taking applications but they aren’t going anywhere. What kind of goal is that?”

For those who thought they enrolled in a plan through the federal exchange since October, the Obama administration now advises that individuals contact their insurance company to verify coverage and if none exists, to start all over again.

“Consumers should absolutely call their selected plan, confirm that they have paid their first month’s premium and that coverage would be available to them, beginning January 1st,” said Julie Bataille, communications director for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS.

“We will also make a concerted effort to reach consumers who selected a plan over the course of these past several weeks, so that they know what their next steps would be, which include paying their first premium and confirming enrollment with their plan,” she said.

Federal health insurance helpers told Shlora to wait several days for a specialist from the website to get back to him, he said, while Humana has told him that his application may pop up by the end of the week.

In recent weeks, Bataille has repeatedly refused to discuss the scope of the back-end problem, declining requests for information about the error rate among the 834 forms and how many people might be affected.

CMS officials said Monday that a single “bug” in the system that prevented a Social Security number from being included in an application was the root cause of “more than 80 percent of the 834 production errors.” Officials said that problem has been fixed, though they would not say when it was first identified and how many applications were flawed.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Veterans Conference in DC Seeks to Broaden Reach of Treatment Courts  

amana media/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- “Words cannot describe the second chance that you guys gave me, but if I had to, it would be that I am in a lifelong debt of gratitude.”
Those were the heartfelt thanks of former Marine corporal Eric Gonzales as he addressed the audience at the Veterans Treatment Court Conference being held in Washington D.C.  Organized by Justice for Vets, the conference hopes to broaden the reach of veterans treatment courts to help veterans, particularly those who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 
Veterans treatment courts help veterans who get in trouble with the law because of their substance abuse or mental health issues get the treatment they need as an alternative to prison time.  The courts are modeled on the drug treatment or mental health treatment courts first established two decades ago.
Justice for Vets estimates that since 2004 the number of veterans being treated for mental illness and substance abuse has increased by 38 percent, with most of their numbers coming from among the 2.5 million American military service members who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Gonzales has gotten his life back in order after he faced serious prison time for a high-speed pursuit fueled by substance abuse.   He told Monday’s conference that the “court gave me the chance of a lifetime to work on my mental health rather than throwing me in prison where I would still be battling with my issues.”
“Someday in the not-so-distant future when there is a vet treatment court in reach of every vet in need we will look back on today as the moment we turned the corner,” said Judge Robert Russell, who established the first veterans treatment court in Buffalo, New York, in 2008.  Working with the local Veterans Affairs office in Buffalo, Russell set up the veterans-focused court after he noticed an increase in the number of veterans appearing before his Drug Court and Mental Health Court.
Retired Army general and drug czar Gen. Robert McCaffrey told the gathering that the main reason for the conference was “to train each other, to learn how to institutionalize and maintain this spectacular concept.”  McCaffrey is the chairman of the Veterans Treatment Court Committee of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals.
At the conference’s opening session Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki told the audience that when he visited Judge Russell’s courtroom in 2009 “the power of the Veterans court concept was clear, undeniable, and compelling.”  He said “since that visit, VA has been your full partner, agreeing to bring all of its capabilities to bear, wherever a judge is willing to establish a Veterans court.”
Shinseki praised the work of the veterans courts and highlighted his department’s “Veterans Justice Outreach” program.   The program’s 172 specialists work with courts to help veterans entering the justice system to get mental health or substance abuse care from the VA.
Shinseki said statistics show the program is having a positive effect, as two-thirds of veterans who appear before treatment courts successfully complete their treatment.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Investigators: Derailed NYC Train Was Going Too Fast

NTSB(NEW YORK) -- The commuter train that crashed in New York City on Sunday was going too fast.

Investigators don't know why it was going so fast, but the Metro-North train, National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Earl Weener said, was well over its speed limit. “That speed again was 82 miles an hour at the entrance to a 30-mile-per-hour curve,” Weener said.

The operator hit the full brakes five seconds before the accident -- “very late in the game,” according to Weener. Investigators have found no problems or anomalies with the brakes, and though Weener said it's too soon to conclude the derailment was caused by human error, ABC News is told that is now the focus.

The train crew is being interviewed and investigators have the operator's cell phone to see if he was talking or texting.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said Monday, “It's premature to blame anyone or anything right now,” but, he added, the train’s speed “raises so many questions.”

Four people were killed and more than 60 were injured when the Metro-North train derailed as it rounded a riverside curve in the Bronx borough of New York City Sunday morning.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Oregon Girl Barred from Selling Mistletoe

Photodisc/Thinkstock(PORTLAND, Ore.) -- Driven by her budding entrepreneurial instincts, an 11-year-old Oregon girl wanted to help her dad pay for her braces by selling mistletoe over the holidays, but she got tangled up in red tape instead.

Madison Root, of Portland, hit the downtown market on Saturday morning to sell the plants that she said she cut and wrapped herself from her uncle’s farm in Newberg, Ore.

“I felt like I could help my dad with the money,” she told ABC News affiliate KATU News.

But a private security guard hired by Portland Saturday Market asked her to stop selling the mistletoe because city rules ban conducting business or soliciting at a park without proper approval and documentation.

Chapter 10.12 of the Portland city code states that soliciting or conducting business includes the display of “goods, or descriptions or depictions of goods or services, with the intent to engage any member of the public in a transaction for the sale of any good or service.”

The guard told Madison that she could sell her mistletoe on the city sidewalk outside the park’s boundaries, but not in the market, or simply ask people for donations for her braces, she told KATU News.

“I don’t want to beg! I would rather work for something than beg,” Madison told KATU News. “I wouldn’t think I’d have any problems because people are asking for money, people are selling stuff, this is a public place.”

However, vendors pay to rent a vending booth and are scrutinized before they qualify for the Portland Saturday Market, officials said.

Mark Ross, a spokesman for the Portland Parks Bureau, which manages the city park and rents it to the Saturday Market, said asking for donations in public is permitted. Asking for donations is “a form of free speech, protected under the First Amendment,” Ross told ABC News.

Ross declined to comment about the incident involving Madison and the security guard, except to note that the Saturday Market administration designates and enforces its rules once the space has been leased to them.

After Madison’s story aired at 5 p.m. Sunday, a viewer called to order 30 bags of mistletoe, KATU News said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Paul Walker’s Father Recalls Last Talk with His Son

ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Paul Walker’s father said his son knew just how much he loved him.

“I always told him that [I loved him], I always gave him a kiss,” he told ABC News affiliate KABC in Los Angeles. “I knew that eventually he might come to realize what a good person he was, his casual honesty…his smile.”

The Fast & Furious star’s father, Paul Walker III, said he and his son were very close. Walker, 40, died Saturday in a car accident near a Los Angeles event for the actor’s charitable organization Reach Out Worldwide.

“I’m glad to say the last time I was with him, we had a great, great talk about how he wanted to spend more time with his daughter Meadow,” he said. “Plans, things he wanted to do, things he was thinking about. He talked about everything but the film industry.”

Meadow Walker, 15, was at the event Saturday when the accident happened. She moved to Los Angeles a few years back to be with her father full-time.

“We lost a spirit,” he added. “I’m devastated.”

Walker Sr. also told KABC how great fans have been the days following his son’s death.

“The last couple days I’ve been hearing these wonderful stories about my son,” he said. “This fella came up to me and…he says, ‘I was with my family and Paul was down in the hotel lobby. I said I got a 17-year-old daughter who thinks you’re just the greatest thing on earth.’”

Walker said in typical fashion, his son said, “Let’s go meet her.”

“That was so what he did,” he said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Missouri Cop Kills Firefighter Celebrating Wedding

Fuse/Thinkstock(KANSAS CITY, Mo.) -- Kansas City authorities are trying to piece together what happened when an early morning confrontation left a groom celebrating his wedding shot dead and the officer who shot him hospitalized with face injuries.

Anthony V. Bruno, 26, a six-year veteran of the Kansas City Fire Department, was killed after he left his wedding reception in the early hours of Sunday morning. A family member said the incident may have been sparked by a dispute over a cab fare.

Kansas City police said in a statement that at 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, an unidentified off-duty police officer responded to a call that a cab driver had been assaulted in front of a hotel near 12th and Wyandotte.

The officer, a 17-year veteran of the police department, was working in uniform and in a law enforcement capacity for a downtown business at the time of the incident. He found the suspect, Bruno, a couple of blocks away where the pair got into a fight, the police statement said.

During the assault, Bruno pinned the officer to the ground and struck him multiple times about his face and head, said police.

"Fearing for his life, the officer eventually fired his handgun, striking the man," said Kansas Police spokesman Capt. Tye Grant.

The officer and others gave Bruno CPR before both were rushed to a nearby hospital, where Bruno later died. The officer was treated for severe injuries around the head and face, but has since been released from the hospital while his swelling goes down, said Grant.

"Once it does down, he will return to the hospital for surgery to repair facial injuries," Grant said.

Authorities are still piecing together exactly what happened between the time Bruno left his downtown wedding reception to the moment he was shot.

A member of Bruno's family told KCTV5 that Bruno had escorted a drunken guest at the reception to the cab stand to make sure the guest got home safely. A dispute then broke out over the cost of the fare, the family member said.

Fire Chief Paul Berardi said he has discussed the shooting a number of times with Police Chief Darryl Forte.

"Friends and family of the Kansas City Fire Department remember Anthony Bruno of Fire Station 17 as a courageous and dedicated firefighter who had been with the department since 2008," Berardi said in a statement. "He was a third-generation member of the fire department."

Bruno is survived by his father, a retired deputy fire chief, his mother, sisters and new wife.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Lab Tech Gets 39 Years for Infecting Patients with Hepatitis

iStock/Thinkstock(CONCORD, N.H.) -- A New Hampshire hospital lab technician who pleaded guilty in August to infecting at least 46 people with hepatitis C has been sentenced to 39 years in prison.

David Kwiatkowski, 34, a former lab technician at Exeter Hospital, admitted to stealing syringes of the anesthetic fentanyl intended for patients, injecting his own arm and then refilling those empty syringes with saline, according to the United States Attorney's Office in New Hampshire.

Kwiatkowski pleaded guilty in August in exchange for a lighter prison sentence, according to the plea agreement obtained by ABC News.

Kwiatkowski tested positive for hepatitis C in June 2010, and passed the infection on to the hospital patients who were injected with his used, saline-filled syringes, according to the plea agreement. At least one patient he treated died in Kansas, and a coroner determined hepatitis C played a role in that death.

According to the plea agreement, Kwiatkowski had been fired or forced to quit for stealing and replacing syringes at least as far back 2008, but he would simply move on to the next hospital.

For example, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center fired Kwiatkowski in May 2008 after an employee saw him take a fentanyl syringe from the operating room, and he was later found with three empty syringes on his person, according to the plea agreement.

Less than two weeks after that, Kwiatkowski got a job at the VA Medical Center in Baltimore. A patient who received care from him on May 27, 2008, at the Baltimore hospital later tested positive for the same strain of hepatitis C that Kwiatkowski has.

"If he knew that he was infected and he put those needles back on the shelf, that is the definition of evil," Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' chief health and medical editor, told Good Morning America last summer. "Anyone who was in those hospitals when he was working there is potentially at risk. We're talking tens of thousands of people."

Hepatitis C is a liver disease that can last a few weeks or for the rest of a patient's life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus is spread through blood and there is no vaccine. Symptoms include vomiting, abdominal pain and jaundice.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Investigators Recover Black Boxes in Deadly Metro-North Train Derailment

Andalou Agency/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Investigators searching for the cause of a New York commuter train derailment that killed at four and injured more than 60 people have recovered both black boxes from the train.

The black boxes, also known as event data recorders, will provide information on whether speed, mechanical problems or human error may have caused the Metro-North to derail as it rounded a riverside curve in the Bronx borough of New York City Sunday morning. The event data recorders were said to be in good condition.

"We have recovered the event recorder of the cab car. We have downloaded the data off the locomotive. We've not had a chance to analyze it," National Transportation Safety Board member Earl Weener said Sunday evening. Weener says investigators will know today how fast the train was going, whether the brakes were applied and whether they worked.

The train's operator reportedly told emergency workers the brakes failed, which is one possibility investigators are looking as the cause of the derailment, officials briefed on the investigation told ABC News.

Investigators have not said why the train derailed but the NTSB could speak to the train operator as soon as Monday.

Investigators will also examine the track's condition although New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday the track did not appear to be faulty, leaving speed as a possible cause for the crash.

"Our mission is to understand not just what happened but why it happened with the intent of preventing it from happening again," Weener said.


Investigators confiscated the train operator's cell phone as a part of the probe into the derailment. Authorities are looking at his conduct and possible human error, and in turn are reviewing his call and text history to see if he had been using his device in the minutes leading up to the accident.

In addition, investigators are trying to find out of the operator was distracted by co-workers moments before the derailment. The confiscation and investigation are part of standard practice, with no indication thus far that the operator's attention was elsewhere.

NTSB officials worked overnight collecting evidence and spotlights were brought in to illuminate the mangled train. With the help of cranes, some of the train cars were lifted upright early Monday morning. NTSB officials said they expected to be on the scene investigating for a week to 10 days.

The dead were identified as Donna L. Smith, 54, of Newburgh, N.Y.; James G. Lovell, 58, of Cold Spring, N.Y.; James M. Ferrari, 59, of Montrose, N.Y.; and Ahn Kisook, 35, of Queens, N.Y.

Three of the dead were found outside the train, and one was found inside, authorities said. Autopsies were scheduled for later Monday, said the New York City medical examiner's office.

Lovell, an audio technician married with four children, was traveling from his Cold Spring home to midtown Manhattan to work on the famed Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, a neighbor told ABC News station WABC-TV.

Eleven people were in critical condition at area hospitals, according to Cuomo as of Sunday, although he said he believed they were in stable condition.

With the track out of commission for the next few days, thousands of people braced for a complicated morning commute today on the Hudson Line, with shuttle buses ferrying passengers to another line.

It's the second commuter train accident on the Metro-North line since July, but New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told ABC News riders shouldn't worry.

"The systems are safe. Just based on sheer volume, sometimes accidents happen, but in terms of the specific cause here, that's going to have to be determined by a full investigation by the NTSB," he said.

The train, which was estimated to have had around 150 passengers on board, left Poughkeepsie for New York's Grand Central Terminal at 5:54 a.m. when it derailed at 7:20 a.m. along the sharp curve near the Spuyten Duyvil Station. The speed limit on the curve is 30 mph, compared with 70 mph in the area approaching it, Weener said.

At least two of the cars had flipped on their side after the crash, and one car stopped only feet from the banks of the Harlem River. Cuomo told reporters that the four fatalities were from the two cars that had flipped on their side. Firefighters, rescue workers and ambulances responded quickly to the scene, and some firefighters broke through windows to remove passengers from the train.

Some of the passengers were jolted from their sleep to screams and the frightening sensation of the train car rolling over.

"It was the speed of the car when I woke up and felt it tilting a bit and by the time I realized what was going on, everyone was getting thrown around," passenger Ryan Kelly told ABC News.

Kelly survived the crash but suffered a fractured hand.

"Everyone in my car was alright except for one woman who was pinned between two seats," he added.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Passengers Advised to Get Tuberculosis Tests After Plane Lands

iStock/Thinkstock(PHOENIX) -- Passengers aboard a US Airways flight said they were told to get tuberculosis tests after they landed in a Phoenix airport over the weekend because of an ill passenger on board.

The passengers aboard US Airways Flight 2846 from Austin to Phoenix Saturday night say the plane was swarmed by paramedics and police on landing, who advised that everyone on board should get a tuberculosis test and follow up with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A Phoenix-area woman told ABC News affiliate KNXV-TV her husband and 10-year-old daughter were on the flight when paramedics and police removed a man who reportedly had tuberculosis.

“As we were taxiing, a stewardess came down the aisle,” passenger Dean Davidson said. “She had a mask and she instructed the gentleman to put a mask on.”

“The fireman said he has tuberculosis, he’s contagious, you must see your physicians immediately and you must be tested in three months’ time,” Davidson added.

US Airways confirmed to ABC News that the crew of Flight 2846 received notice from the Transportation Security Administration about midway through the flight that a passenger’s boarding status had changed because of a medical condition.

“The warning that came from the CDC did not occur until after the flight had departed so the passenger did not have a red flag in their reservation system or any warning there,” airline spokesman Bill McGlashen told ABC News.

US Airways could not confirm what the medical condition was, but the 74 passengers and crew members on board were met by the Phoenix Fire Department at the at Sky Harbor Airport and were given information following the removal of the passenger who had the medical condition.

“Passengers were provided some information about what had occurred. And we are following up the situation with the CDC and monitoring it with them,” McGlashen said.

Maricopa County Dept. of Public Health Spokesperson Jeanene Fowler said they were notified by the airport in Phoenix of an unconfirmed case of tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis, a bacterial infection of the lungs, is contagious and sometimes deadly. But the CCD tells ABC News even if the passenger has tuberculosis, “exposure to other passengers would be unlikely.”

“We believe there is very low risk of anyone being exposed to tuberculosis,” Fowler said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Crash Victim Survives Days Without Food or Water

ABC News(WESTCLIFFE, Colo.) -- A Colorado man who survived six days without food and water after a car crash says he thought the whole thing was a dream.

Richard Koester, of Westcliffe, was in the passenger seat of a truck driven by his friend Ronald Mohr on Oct. 11 when the truck veered out of control and crashed 30 feet into a ravine.

Mohr was killed in the crash while Koester, 36, survived but found himself trapped inside.

“I remember telling myself I can’t move.  I can’t get out of this truck,” Koester said from the Colorado Springs hospital where he is now recovering.

Hurt and disoriented, Koester says he can’t remember many of the details of how he survived the next six days trapped inside the car with Mohr’s lifeless body and no food and no water.

“I was laying on top of him the whole six days and nights. I had no idea he was with me when I woke up,” Koester said.  “That and a couple of other things kept me alive. He kept me a little warmer for a few extra days.”

Koester remained trapped until a highway worker finally spotted the truck on Oct. 17.

“I stuck my arm out the big hole in the back of the truck and was yelling for help,” Koester said.  “I thought I was in a dream.”

Koester lost both of his legs in the crash and has been undergoing treatments ever since.

“I met the doctor who saved my life. He said my body temperature was 79 degrees at the hospital. He said I should’ve been dead a long time ago,” Koester told ABC News.

Koester has already been through five surgeries.  His speech is still garbled from the crash, but he says he has a renewed will to live.

“I have a new respect for life. I’m not going to do a lot of stupid things I did in the past,” he said.  “I think God has a plan for me.  That’s why I lived.”

One of the last phone calls Koester made before the crash was to his daughter, to wish her a happy 13th birthday.

Koester’s mom, Barbara Dial, said her son now has two birthdays for himself, the day she gave birth to him and Oct. 17, the day he was rescued from the crash.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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