In brief: Councilors’ credit cards, ACA sign-up perils, abusive language verdict and more…

JABA counselor Laurel Olson, center, helps Amy and Susan Hastings find the right health insurance.
David McNair JABA counselor Laurel Olson, center, helps Amy and Susan Hastings find the right health insurance. David McNair

Using ACA insurance? Read this first

Yes, the Affordable Care Marketplace is still here, and sign-up ends December 15. Counselors at the Jefferson Area Board for Aging have seen a few surprises in the process, and want residents to be aware they could face some unpleasant results if they simply auto-enroll this year.

One big difference: Optima was the only insurance carrier in the marketplace in 2018. This year Anthem is back, which provides more options, but also can affect the amount of the subsidy for those who qualify.

Joe Bernheim at JABA explains: With two carriers, the benchmark plan—that’s the second-lowest-cost silver plan—will be less than what consumers saw last year. That means that government subsidy will be lower, and those whose income allows them to qualify for the subsidy will see higher premiums.

What you need to know

  • Don’t auto-enroll. You may be able to get a better plan or lower premium.
  • Some people have received letters with estimates from the current carrier that are inaccurate and much lower than what the premium will actually be.
  • Consumers are being offered “direct” and “select” plans. The select plans exclude most of the doctors at UVA, while direct plans offer a broad network of local providers. If you auto-enroll, you could be put in a select plan.
  • People who aren’t eligible for the subsidy will see lower premiums and a broader network of providers.
  • If you’re signing up for newly available Medicaid, there’s no deadline, but JABA advises going to the Marketplace website ( to cancel ACA insurance or you may be charged.
  • Can we say it again? Don’t auto-enroll, and do sign up before the December 15 deadline.

Quote of the week

“I feel like court’s going to be watching my daughter die again, over and over and over.”—Susan Bro, Heather Heyer’s mother, on NPR.

In brief

Tinsley sexual misconduct suit

Trumpeter James Frost-Winn’s $9-million sexual harassment lawsuit against former Dave Matthews Band violinist Boyd Tinsley is scheduled for trial September 9, 2019, in Seattle. Tinsley announced he would not be touring with the band in February, the same day he got a demand letter from Frost-Winn’s attorney.

Another pipeline delay?

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has suspended a permit necessary for the 600-mile, $6 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross the 1,500 streams along its path from West Virginia to North Carolina, for concerns of harm to aquatic life. This is one of several setbacks Dominion has faced since it began building the pipeline this year, but a spokesperson says it’s still scheduled for completion by the end of 2019.

Censorship suit

Local attorney Jeff Fogel has filed yet another lawsuit regarding prison censorship. He’s now representing Uhuru Baraka Rowe, an inmate at Greensville Correctional Center, who claims his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when prison officials at the Sussex II State Prison censored essays he wrote about conditions in the facility.

Win for Miska


Anna Malinowski at a 2017 protest. Staff photo

Local anti-racists like to scream at John Miska, a veterans’ rights and Confederate statue supporter. Recently, in Albemarle General District Court, a judge found Anna Malinowski guilty of abusive language for accosting him outside a school board meeting. At an earlier hearing in the city, a judge let Donna Gasapo off the hook for similar behavior.

Councilors’ credit line

In a much-discussed story that appeared in the November 25 issue of the Daily Progress, reporter Nolan Stout examined the $26,784 in charges (and taxpayer money) that city councilors have racked up on their city credit cards over the past year and a half. All five councilors have one, and four of them have a limit of $20,000—except for Mike Signer, who as mayor inherited the council’s original card, with a credit limit of $2,500.

Vice-Mayor Heather Hill hasn’t used her card, and Councilor Wes Bellamy, who has traveled extensively for various conferences, has spent the most, charging more than $15,000 from September 6, 2017, to October 29 of this year. Local activist group Solidarity Cville has called the article a racist “hit piece” on Bellamy, and said it wouldn’t have been written if white Councilor Kathy Galvin were the highest spender. All councilors were within budget and mostly used their cards for out-of-town meals, hotels, and travel, but here’s what some of the specific charges looked like:

Charged up

  • $1,418 spent by Bellamy at a Le Meridien hotel for a National League of Cities conference in Charlotte
  • $15.52 spent by Bellamy at Kiki’s Chicken and Waffles
  • $41.17 spent by Bellamy at Hooters
  • $1,000 spent by Signer on a hotel to speak on a panel called “Local Leadership in the Wake of Terror” at the SXSW Cities Conference in Austin, Texas
  • $307.19 spent by Signer, mostly for meals and Lyfts in Austin, “many of which were at midnight or later,” notes the reporter
  • $101.09 spent by Mayor Nikuyah Walker at Ragged Mountain Running Shop ahead of her event called “Get Healthy with the Mayor”
  • $132.22 spent by Walker at Beer Run
  • $706 spent by Galvin on a Hyatt hotel for a two-day forum in Washington, D.C.
  • $4.99 spent by former City Council chief of staff Paige Rice on an iTunes bill

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