Kenneth Schorr, Executive Director, Announces Retirement

After nearly 34 years of service, our Executive Director, Kenneth Schorr, will retire on March 1, 2022. While leading an effective and dynamic program of individual and systemic advocacy, Ken’s concluding goals were to lead our organization through its 50th anniversary celebration and rebranding in 2017, conduct a successful capital campaign, and acquire and move to a new building. As our capital campaign approaches our goal, and our organization will move to our new office in early 2022, those goals are nearly complete.

Ken began his service as Executive Director for Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy in April 1988. During his tenure, he recruited and supported lawyers and other staff to be experts in their areas of legal practice, provided individual client assistance in employment and other areas of law, and assisted other advocates across the range of our legal practice. Throughout his career, he has worked to keep our agency focused on the clients and community we serve, expert and agile in its work, and connected and collaborated with partners and supporters.

Ken’s professional career has been committed to helping those who are disadvantaged or disfavored in our community. We have all been impacted by his dedication.

The Advocacy Center Board has appointed a Search Committee, chaired by Jose Vega, Wells Fargo and Ed O’Keefe, Moore and Van Allen. The Search Committee and the Advocacy Center Board of Directors have selected Elinvar Leadership Solutions to support the executive search and to ensure a smooth transition. Although Ken’s determination and tenacity leading our organization will be missed, he leaves the Advocacy Center in a strong position to move forward with new leadership. Through this transition, the Advocacy Center will continue to work tirelessly to fulfill our mission to pursue justice for those in need.

Racial Justice Implications of Recent Legal Decisions

In pivotal cases in courtrooms across America, we have seen victories and movement toward a more just and equal country, while also being reminded that there is still more work to be done.  

Our legal system shows progress in the fight against racism 

On November 18th, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt granted clemency to Julius Jones hours before his scheduled execution.  Jones had spent 19 years on death row for a 1999 murder that new compelling evidence suggests he did not commit. Governor Stitt took action after years of pleading and advocacy by the public, including a petition with more than 6.5 million signatures.  Supporters argued that Jones, a Black man, was not given a fair trial and that racism played a role in his sentencing.  Research has found that a disproportionate number of death-row inmates are Black, and that Black defendants accused of killing white people are more likely to be executed.  While the governor granted clemency, Jones still faces a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

Days later, organizers of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville were held liable for inciting violence against counter protesters in 2017.  The verdict was a clear admonishment of the defendants, a mix of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Confederate sympathizers. 

And finally, on November 24th, three white men were found guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, in what many viewed as a modern-day lynching.   Arbery was chased down and killed by the men while jogging through their neighborhood.  Arbery’s family and supporters across the nation found some solace in the jury of mostly white citizens affirming that killing an unarmed Black man was not only morally wrong, but legally wrong as well.  

The work is not finished 

Our nation was divided on November 19th when jurors found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty in his shooting of three men during racial justice protests in 2020.  Jurors determined that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense in accordance with Wisconsin law.  Those in opposition to the verdict argued that Rittenhouse, a young white man, benefited from a blatant racial double standard.  Many have argued that if Rittenhouse was Black, he would not have been released on bail, nor had a public trial to plead his innocence.  Activists also raised concerns that racial justice protestors could lawfully be deemed a threat by armed vigilantes.   

The underlying truth in these cases is that violence and injustice against people of color has gone on for far too long.  Our legal system has historically justified the killing of Black men and women, serving as an affront to the claims of justice for all.  Furthermore, men and women of color face implicit bias and systemic racism in our courtrooms, resulting in disproportionate negative outcomes in criminal legal proceedings.  Justice should not be based on the color of your skin. 

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy stands with the Black community 

The Advocacy Center’s vision is to build a just community where all people are treated fairly and have access to legal representation. The long-standing inequities of our criminal justice system have been laid bare, yet we know firsthand that our civil legal system is equally rife with injustices.  We must stand as a community to say that Black lives matter.  But so too does the quality of life to which they are afforded.   At the Advocacy Center, it is our mission to address the disproportionate impact of civil legal issues threatening our neighbors of color, improve our clients’ quality of life, ensure stability, and promote opportunity.  

The verdicts in the Charlottesville, Jones and Arbery trials may bring us closer to a world of justice for all, but we know it is just one step in a very long journey.  We continue to watch cases where Black defendants have made similar claims of self-defense. In Wisconsin, Chrystul Kizer, a young Black woman and a victim of abuse, faces criminal charges for murdering her sex trafficker when she was 17.  And in Georgia, Marc Wilson, a young Black man, faces criminal charges for killing a white female after firing defensive shots at her vehicle.  The young woman and co-passengers of her vehicle had targeted Wilson with racial epithets, threw glass bottles at his vehicle, and attempted to run Wilson off the road.  It is our hope that the outcome of these cases will demonstrate that Black defendants can and must receive the same deference and protection afforded by a self-defense argument as white defendants. For now, the fight continues and we remain hopeful that one day justice for all will not only be said, but shown.  

We’re moving to a new home!

There are over 300,000 residents in Mecklenburg County who are eligible for our services and in need of legal assistance, but unable to afford private lawyers.  With demand significantly increasing over the past several years, we increased our staff and resource to better assist our community.  Our growth was met with its own challenges, and we quickly found our impact limited by physical space. 

Our new home at 5535 Albemarle Road will substantially improve our ability to provide dignified, confidential, convenient service by tripling our square footage and consolidating all our services under one roof. The services and staff our clients know and trust will remain the same, just at new location. 

Our office will be closing at 1431 Elizabeth Avenue on January 7, 2022 We will reopen at our new location on January 24, 2022. If you need assistance while we move, our office staff can still be reached during normal business hours, 704-376-1600.

We look forward to welcoming you to our new home!

Basic Health Insurance Terms

Need to enroll in a health insurance policy or update the one you have?

Open Enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace (Healthcare.gov) is Nov. 1, 2021, to Jan. 15, 2022.

There are a lot of special terms in the health insurance world, and they can be difficult to understand. We’re here to help you make sense of terms you see on Healthcare.gov.

Watch the video and scroll down for more terms defined.

Learn more about how to get covered, or call 980-256-3782 to reach a Health Insurance Navigator for free assistance. You can leave a message with a quick question or schedule a longer phone appointment.

Catastrophic Health Plan
The premium amount you pay each month for healthcare is generally lower than for other plans, but the out-of-pocket costs for deductibles, copayments and coinsurance (see terms defined below) are generally higher. To qualify for a Catastrophic plan, you must be under 30 years old OR get an “affordability exemption” (the Marketplace determines that you’re unable to afford health coverage).

COBRA
A federal law that may allow you to temporarily keep health coverage after your employment ends. If you choose COBRA coverage, you pay 100% of the premiums, including the portion that your employer used to pay, plus a small administrative fee.

Coinsurance
Like a copayment (see next term), but in the form of a percentage of the cost of a healthcare service (e.g. you pay 20% of the cost of a visit or procedure).

Copayment
A set amount that you pay for a medical service or item, like a doctor’s visit. The insurance company covers the rest.

Deductible
The amount you have to pay for covered health care services (e.g. doctor and hospital visits, labs, etc.) before your health insurance or plan begins to pay. Often, the health insurance company will only pay a percentage of the costs after you reach your deductible. If you think you will need a lot of healthcare services in a year, you should look for plans with a low deductible.

Metal Categories of Health Plans
In addition to catastrophic plans, Healthcare.gov plans come in four metal categories: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Bronze plans are usually best for individuals who have few health needs but want to be prepared in case of an emergency. Bronze plans have the lowest monthly premiums, but they have a high deductible. Gold and Platinum plans are often best for people who use a lot of health services. They have the highest monthly premiums, but each visit to the doctor and each prescription will have a low copay/coinsurance. Plans in all metal categories provide free preventive care (for example, a yearly wellness visit to your doctor).

Silver plans are ideal for individuals/families with income less than 250% FPL. If you select a Silver plan, you will receive cost sharing reductions, which means your out of pocket costs (deductible, coinsurance and copays) are also subsidized and may be very low.

Network
The doctors, hospitals and suppliers your health insurer has contracted with to deliver health care services to their members. Ask a healthcare provider if they accept your insurance before you visit. If you go out of network, your care will be more expensive.

Out-of-pocket Maximum
Usually a larger number than your deductible. This is the absolute maximum amount of money you will have to spend in the year on healthcare costs. After you reach this amount, the health insurance company will cover all services 100%.

Plans and Prices Toolhttps://www.healthcare.gov/see-plans/#/ 
Saves you time! This tool allows you to see what plans are available in your area and how much financial assistance you qualify for before you fill out an application. 

Pre-existing Conditions
A health problem, like asthma, diabetes, or cancer, that you had before the date that new health coverage starts. Insurance companies can’t refuse to cover treatment for your pre-existing condition or charge you more.

Premium
The amount you pay for your plan each month.

Premium Tax Credit
The “subsidies” that lower the cost of your monthly premiums. You can take the premium tax credits in advance to lower your monthly cost, or you can take them as a refund at tax time.

To look up more key terms, visit the Healthcare.gov glossary.

NC Medicaid Managed Care – FAQs

North Carolina Medicaid Managed Care- What is it and how does it affect my Medicaid coverage?

North Carolina has undergone a change in how Medicaid benefits are set-up. This change, called the Medicaid Transformation, has caused many Medicaid-eligible individuals to be switched from the traditional Medicaid Direct, managed by the state of North Carolina, to new health plans that are managed by private companies instead. This change took place officially July 1, but many people are still left with questions about how the changes affect them. Answers to some common questions are below, as well as guidance on where to go for help.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy Launches Medicaid Storytelling

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is partnering with the National Health Law Program (NHeLP) for a Medicaid storytelling project to learn how Medicaid has impacted North Carolinians. We encourage anyone to share their experience with Medicaid, whether it is good or bad, and how having or not having Medicaid has made a difference.

Those interested in participating can email Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, call us at 980-202-7334 or record a video.

The stories we collect will be used to help identify problems and successes that can be used for advocacy to improve Medicaid. Your participation can secure health access and equity for all people and communities.

To learn more in about this project in English, click here. Para aprender más sobre como compartir su historia, haga clic aquí.

How to Make the Most Of Your Healthcare.gov Plan

You took the step to enroll for health insurance coverage using Healthcare.gov. Congratulations! You’ve joined more than 31 million people who have the peace of mind of knowing they are covered with access to preventive health care and life-saving screenings.

Take advantage of free services.

Preventive health services are included in every Healthcare.gov plan and are free. They are routine health care procedures such as screenings, check-ups, and counseling to prevent illness and other health problems.

All Healthcare.gov plans are required to cover preventive health services 100%. This means that insurance companies cannot charge you a copay or coinsurance to get this type of medical attention. For example, an annual check-up, immunizations, children’s vision screenings, contraception and well-woman visits are free. You’ll just need to show your health insurance card at your doctor’s office. Get specific lists of preventive services for adults, women and children.

Preventive services are free only when you get them from a doctor or other provider in your plan’s network. (A network is the facilities, providers and suppliers your health insurance company has contracted with to provide health care services.) Talk to your doctor about taking advantage of these free services to keep you and your family healthy.

Look at the Summary of Benefits and Coverage.

To understand your plan better, and to be prepared in case of illness or an emergency, read the Summary of Benefits and Coverage that comes with your plan. Log in to your Healthcare.gov account or call your health insurance company to get a copy. 

This document will give you a snapshot of your possible costs throughout the year and includes examples of common medical events. For example, it will explain how much a hospital visit or prescription drugs will cost you.

Know where to go for care. 

You can get health care at many different places, including the emergency department when you’re injured or very sick. But it’s best to get regular care from a primary care provider (often a doctor at a family medicine clinic). Primary care providers work with you to make sure that you get the right services, manage your chronic conditions and improve your health and well-being. It might take more than one visit to figure out if a provider is right for you, so it’s important to be proactive and start your search now.

If you aren’t sure how to find a doctor in your area, your health insurance company’s website is a good place to start. If you have a health insurance plan in the Charlotte area, you can check out the Bright Health provider search tool here and the Blue Cross Blue Shield provider search tool here.

Or, if you know of a doctor that a friend or family member recommended to you, you can call that doctor’s office to see if they accept your health insurance plan. Remember, your care will be a lot cheaper if you go to a doctor in your health plan’s network.

Check out this guide for more great tips on how to make your health insurance work for you.

If you have questions about your coverage, or your income or health care needs change at anytime, call 980-256-3782 to reach a Health Insurance Navigator for free assistance. You can leave a message with a quick question or schedule a longer phone appointment.

Need to enroll in a health insurance policy or update the one you have?

Open Enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace (Healthcare.gov) is Nov. 1, 2021, to Jan. 15, 2022.

Beware of COVID-19 Foreclosure Rescue and Forbearance Assistance Scams

By Niayai Lavien

Many homeowners are facing increased financial hardships due to unemployment and COVID-19.  Scammers are taking advantage of the current economic fallout of the pandemic and employing elaborate scams to trick homeowners out of their properties. Older adults and the economically disadvantaged are more likely to be targets of these abusive practices.  

The CDC’s federal eviction and foreclosure moratorium ends on July 31, 2021. The moratorium allows individuals and families living in federally financed properties to stay in their homes throughout the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also allows families to receive financial assistance to stay current on their rent and mortgage payments.  

With the moratorium ending, consumers, especially homeowners, should know their options and learn how to prevent themselves from being scammed. 

A foreclosure rescue scam is when a scammer tricks a homeowner into signing away ownership of their home for dramatically less than its current worth. Scammers often target homeowners who are in the middle of foreclosure by promising that they can stop a foreclosure from happening while  hiding the fact that the homeowner is signing over title to the property.  

Scammers search public records to prey on homeowners who are in danger of foreclosure through failure to pay property taxes, mortgage or  homeowners association dues. They also look for older homeowners who have paid off their mortgage, but have trouble with the financial upkeep of their home.  

Common abusive practices include: 

  • Aggressive solicitation via phone, text message, mail and door hangers 
  • Downplaying the value of the home 
  • Pressure to sign a document or contract without the presence of a Realtor or attorney  

Whatever the particular factors surrounding a homeowner’s situation, the scammer’s goal is to steal the home’s dollar while a person is in a high pressure situation.  

Do’s and Don’ts of Foreclosure Scams:  

Don’t → Fall for unsolicited offers to buy your home or help you sell your home without any cost.  

Don’t →  Make a decision regarding your home without getting a second opinion.  

Don’t → Be pressured into signing any papers until you’ve talked with an attorney. 

Do → Consult with a HUD approved counseling agency to talk about your options. 

Do →  Be wary of out-of-state law firms, organizations and groups offering to provide assistance. 

Do → Contact Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Consumer Protection Team for assistance at 704-376-1600. 

All About Appeals

Need to enroll in a health insurance policy or update the one you have?

Open Enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace (Healthcare.gov) is Nov. 1, 2021, to Jan. 15, 2022.

As a consumer on the Health Insurance Marketplace (Healthcare.gov), you have the right to appeal decisions that are not in your favor. There are two types of appeals. The first is an appeal of a Marketplace decision (generally a decision on your eligibility to purchase a plan on Healthcare.gov). The second is an appeal of an insurance company’s decision (usually a decision of whether the company will cover a particular drug or surgery).

Appealing a Health Insurance Marketplace (Healthcare.gov) decision

You have the right to appeal any of the following decisions:

  • Denial of Advanced Payments of the Premium Tax Credit (APTCs) or Cost Sharing Reductions (CSRs)
  • Amount of APTCs or CSRs
  • Adjustment in APTCs or CSRs at end of 90-day inconsistency period
  • Denial of eligibility to enroll in Marketplace coverage
  • Denial of a special enrollment period
  • Termination of Marketplace coverage
  • Denial of coverage exemption
  • Denial of eligibility for Medicaid/CHIP

Important note about eligibility appeals: If the Marketplace says that you are ineligible to buy a plan on Healthcare.gov, you have 90 days to appeal. Learn more about filing an eligibility appeal here.

Fill out appeal forms online here. If you want a family member or another person to represent you in your appeal, find out how to appoint an authorized representative here. After you have submitted your appeal, you can check on the status of your appeal by calling the Marketplace Appeals Hotline (855-231-1751).

How we can help: A Health Insurance Navigator can help you gather information to file your appeal, and our staff can represent you in your appeal at no cost. 

Appealing a health insurance company decision

If your health insurance company refuses to pay for a procedure or a medication, you have the right to appeal. Your health insurance company is required to let you know why they denied coverage, and they must provide you with information on how to appeal.

There are two types of insurance company appeals: Internal appeals and external reviews.

Internal appeals are reviewed by the health insurance company itself. You can file a request for coverage (also known as a claim) either before or after receiving medical attention. If your health insurance company denies coverage of your claim, you must file your appeal within six months of receiving notice that your claim was denied. Follow the instructions that the insurance company includes with their denial. Click here for more information on internal appeals. 

External reviews are the last option to appeal an insurance company’s denial (outside of the legal system), and they are processed by the North Carolina Department of Insurance. External reviews in NC are free. You can reach the Department of Insurance at 855-408-1212, or you can visit their website to request an external review. Click here for more information on external reviews.

Health Insurance Navigators can help you appeal a health insurance company decision and navigate the appeal process with the NC Department of Insurance. 

To get free help from a Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy Health Insurance Navigator, call 980-256-3782. You can also book an appointment by visiting ncnavigator.net.

Learn more about how to get covered, or call 980-256-3782 to reach a Health Insurance Navigator for free assistance. You can leave a message with a quick question or schedule a longer phone appointment.

Charlotte Center For Legal Advocacy Hosts U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Becerra

Charlotte, NC – Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and U.S. Rep. Alma Adams visited Charlotte Center For Legal Advocacy and Legal Aid of North Carolina. They conducted a roundtable discussion on local and national health care with representatives of NC Navigator Consortium and other leading figures in the Charlotte community.

The director of NC Navigator Consortium, Mark Van Arnam, answering one of Secretary Becerra’s questions. 

Secretary Becerra and Rep. Adams thanked Charlotte Center For Legal Advocacy and the representatives of NC Navigator Consortium for the results they have achieved getting those in need connected to COVID-19 vaccinations and affordable health care coverage. Secretary Becerra mentioned that President Biden’s new American Families Plan is an important building block of the Affordable Care Act. Secretary Becerra and Rep. Adams made it clear their top priority is increasing vaccination rates and promised to meet the people where they are in order to make it happen.

Secretary Becerra and U.S. Rep Alma Adams taking a tour of Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy with health insurance navigator Natalie Marles.
Secretary Becerra and U.S. Rep Alma Adams discussing the importance of increasing vaccination rates with the media. 

Anyone in need of health insurance coverage is encouraged to learn more about how to “get covered” on the Charlotte Center For Legal Advocacy website. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Biden administration has announced a Special Open Enrollment Period that will remain open until August 15, 2021. First-time consumers or individuals who have lost their health coverage can enroll in a plan during this time, and existing consumers can switch plans. NC Navigator Consortium Health Insurance Navigators are standing by to help.

Charlotte Center For Legal Advocacy can provide those in need with information, advice and advocacy in consumer protection, home preservation, health care access and public benefits, immigration, tax assistance and more. Our mission is to pursue justice for those in need. Our vision is to build a just community, where all people are treated fairly and have access to legal representation to meet their basic human needs of safety, economic security and stability.