North Carolina man finally gets unemployment money

A 73-year-old man who lives in Avery County said he applied for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program in May.

AVERY COUNTY, N.C. — A WCNC Charlotte Defenders investigation is learning about an older couple who was forced to ration their medicine while waiting for unemployment benefits.

A 73-year-old man who lives in Avery County said he applied for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program in May. He was waiting five months with no answer. 

In the meantime, he said he and his wife were cutting spending, including on their prescription medicines.

Richard Warriner said every time he calls to talk to an agent with the North Carolina Department of Employment Security, he’s told his claim is good to go, which is why he’s confused about why he was waiting for several months with no payment.

RELATED: 709,000 seek US jobless aid as coronavirus pandemic escalates

“I don’t like living like this,” Warriner said. “You’re just like being a gerbil on a wheel and we’re not going anywhere.”

Warriner, who does medical schedules for a company in Minnesota, said he took a major pay cut in April when he was making $750 per week, which went down to $250 per week. Initially, he applied for regular unemployment benefits.

“As an independent contractor, I was deemed ineligible,” said Warriner.

Then he switched to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program in May and waited months for an answer.  He said every time he talked to a DES agent, he asked the same question.

“Is there anything wrong with my file you can see?’ And every time everybody said ‘No, it looks great, you should be getting it’,” said Warriner.

In the meantime, Warriner said his refrigerator broke down.  He also said he and his wife were holding off on car repairs, and even rationing their prescription medications.

“Instead of taking two pills a day you take one, so you don’t have to refill it as often,” Warriner said.

Warriner said he has friends in other states who applied for unemployment benefits and were already paid.  In North Carolina, he doesn’t know what else to do to get his payment.

“They have a place on their website where you can update your documents which I have done, but I’m not sure anyone has looked at them,” said Warriner. “I suspect it’s the push of a button on a computer and it’s resolved.”

There has now been a major update to Warriner’s case within the past month.  He said his case was resolved after he contacted the Defenders team and he also reached out to a state representative who agreed to help.  Now, Warriner is getting his unemployment payments.

RELATED: Unemployment drops to 6.9% and US adds a solid 638,000 jobs

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The Health 202: Doctors, hospitals blast Trump’s baseless claims they inflate coronavirus deaths for money

“You know that, right?” Trump said at a Michigan rally on Friday. “I mean our doctors are very smart people. So what they do is they say, ‘I’m sorry, but everybody dies of covid.’” 

Chip Kahn, president of the Federation of American Hospitals, said “it is so offensive.” 

There is no evidence that hospitals and doctors are lying about the number of covid-19 patients. 

That would be fraud and something the Department of Justice could prosecute. “It’s unethical, it’s illegal and it’s inappropriate,” Kahn said.

Without naming the president, the American Medical Association called Trump’s statement a “malicious, outrageous and completely misguided charge” and defended front-line health care workers. “They did it because duty called and because of the sacred oath they took,” said AMA President Susan Bailey.

The pandemic has actually cost medical facilities money, although by how much is unclear. 

Elective surgical procedures, which hospitals were forced to cancel or postpone for much of the spring, generate the most revenue for them. In contrast, carrying for severely ill coronavirus patients for weeks on end consumes lots of staffing hours and bed space for hospitals.

“Frankly, these are very expensive cases on average … the hospitalizations are long and so even the reimbursement is probably way below cost,” Kahn said. 

And hospitals don’t get extra money if a coronavirus patient dies. 

Hospitals bill the government and private insurers for specific services related to specific illnesses, regardless of the outcome.

“Hospitals do not receive extra funds when patients die from covid-19,” the American Hospital Association wrote in a blog post yesterday addressing the claims. “They are not over-reporting covid-19 cases. And, they are not making money on treating covid-19.”

Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University School of Public Health:

However, there is a coronavirus “bonus” for uninsured covid-19 patients.

The coronavirus relief package passed by Congress includes money to pay hospitals for treating uninsured covid-19 patients. The package allows hospitals to be paid 120 percent of typical Medicare rates. 

Yet Kahn feels that, if anything, hospitals aren’t getting paid as much as they need for caring for coronavirus patients. Trump’s comments, he feels, reflected little-to-no understanding of how the coding system works. 

Hospitals can only submit claims for the payments that list covid-19 as a patient’s primary diagnosis. For example, a patient admitted with sepsis due to the coronavirus would be given “sepsis” as a primary diagnosis and “covid-19” as a secondary diagnosis — even though the virus caused the sepsis to begin with. 

Hospitals have asked the Department of Health and Human Services to loosen those rules, charging that the majority of claims for coronavirus testing and treatment would be rejected and ineligible for reimbursement under the program.

Trump’s claim was just the tip of the iceberg in how he talked about the pandemic.

The president switched between blaming others for focusing on the pandemic while simultaneously promising a widespread vaccine within weeks.

He offered extreme depictions of a pandemic response might look like under a Biden administration.

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Parents of Boy with Brain Disorder That’s ‘100 Percent Fatal’ Raise Money for Gene Therapy Clinical Trial

gofundme Connor

The parents of a boy with a rare, fatal brain disorder are raising money so he can participate in a gene therapy trial that has potential to stop the disease.

Marisa DiChiacchio and Mike Dobbyn’s 12-year-old son Connor has Sanfilippo Syndrome Type C, which is a rare degenerative brain disorder that is “like Alzheimer’s, but in children,” according to a GoFundMe campaign created earlier this month.

According to the campaign, the syndrome is “100 percent fatal” and has no cure.

“As the degeneration rapidly progresses, Connor will stop walking, stop talking, stop being able to feed himself,” the GoFundMe campaign says. “He’ll develop movement disorders and seizures, suffer severe dementia, endure a lot of pain and suffering, and then he’ll die.”

But Connor’s family is raising money for the Cure Sanfilippo Foundation and a gene therapy clinical trial that needs funding at UT Southwestern in Dallas, Texas.

gofundme Marisa DiChiacchio, Mike Dobbyn and their sons Keenan and Connor

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“Research for this gene therapy has shown in pre-clinical models that it can stop the disease,” the campaign says. “This clinical trial is the crucial step of determining whether earlier research is able to show the same therapeutic benefits in children.”

“It was like a bomb was dropped on us in the geneticist office,” Connor’s dad told CBS Philadelphia of the moment they learned of his diagnosis. “I just remember it was a life-shortening condition, the geneticist actually told us at the time, ‘Don’t Google this yet because we don’t have a 100 percent conviction on this diagnosis yet.’ “

gofundme Marisa DiChiacchio, Mike Dobbyn, Connor

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“We knew Connor obviously was special and loved and adored by so many people, but sometimes you just don’t realize until something devastating like this comes out,” Connor’s mother added. “And just everybody comes out of the woodwork trying to help and wanting to help. So he’s like our local community rock star.”

As of Wednesday, the campaign had raised $172,210 of its $3,000,000 goal. 

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