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Health notes: Deadline approaches for health plans

Minnesota’s version of the online health insurance marketplace is on a “March to Enroll” as one of the Affordable Care Act’s most significant deadlines approaches.

March 31 is the deadline for people to purchase private health insurance plans for the rest of this year through the online marketplaces nationwide, including MNsure, Minnesota’s version, and the federal, which is Wisconsin’s venue.

The deadline doesn’t apply to government programs — Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare, for example, or to small businesses. For those, enrollment is always open.

More than 125,000 people have enrolled for either public or private programs through MNsure so far, the agency said in a news release this week. It wants to get to 135,000 by the end of the month. That would be in line with the goal it set last fall, although the goal for private plan enrollment has been scaled back from about 70,000 to 50,518 by the end of 2014, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

To get that last 10,000, MNsure personnel will offer more than a thousand “enrollment opportunities” around the state this month. That includes weekday hours with specially trained navigators at Community Action Duluth, 2424 W. Fifth St., Suite 102,  and at the Health Care Access Office, 4325 Grand Ave. Appointments are recommended for the former and required for the later; call Community Action Duluth at (218) 726-1665 or the Health Care Access Office at (218) 722-9650.

Appointments are filling up quickly, said Jenny Peterson of Duluth’s Generations Health Care Initiatives. She suggested calling the 211 United Way line to get set up with a navigator.

HIV testing offered

National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day will be observed this afternoon in Duluth.

The Indigenous Peoples Task Force will provide free HIV testing for walk-ins from 3-6 p.m. at the American Indian Community Housing Organization, 202 W. Second St.

The Minnesota Department of Health reports the state has had 232 cases of HIV infection among American Indians and 102 deaths. As of 2012, 132 American Indians were living with HIV in Minnesota, a health department news release said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports native communities have the fifth highest rate of new HIV infections among population groups in the U.S., the news release said.

A place for skin

Essentia Health is offering an open house from 4-7 p.m. today at its new Center for Renewal in the Essentia Health-Duluth Clinic Third Street Building.

The relocated and renovated facility on the building’s first floor offers a medical spa, and skin-care services, an Essentia news release said.

The center includes a private registration area, six treatment rooms and two laser rooms, the news according to the release. Available procedures include laser treatments, Botox, tattoo removal and body contouring. A retail area offers cleansers, moisturizers, sunscreens, mineral cosmetics and hair and body products.

Guests at the open house will be able to sample products, watch demonstrations and receive free skin consultations.

Regional board gets new leader

The Carlton-Cook-St. Louis Community Health Board has appointed Louise Anderson as the program’s new director.

Anderson has an extensive background in public health and health care administration, according to the board.

She replaces Julie Myhre, who directed the board for

10 years. Myhre recently was appointed division director in the Office of State Health Improvement Initiatives at the Minnesota Department of Health.

Rehab program reaccredited

The Acute Rehabilitation Program at St. Luke’s hospital has been reaccredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.

The accreditation extends through February 2017, a hospital news release said.

Writing and cancer

A regional project offers online “reflective writing groups” to cancer patients and caregivers.

The project, called “Reflecting Pools,” was developed by Duluth artist Lisa McKhann and the nonprofit she directs, Project Lulu. In a news release, McKhann announced a partnership with the Caring Ways Cancer Resource Center at Essentia Health.

The resource center “will serve as a central point of contact, collecting information and helping participants get started,” the news release said.

McKhann and resource center director Colleen Baggs will be on hand during Saturday’s all-day Cancer Survivor Conference at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center to talk about Reflecting Pools. They will be among the education and information tables.

The conference is free, but registration is required because of limited space. Call (218) 786-1619 to register. Space still was available as of Wednesday.

To learn more about Reflecting Pools, go to online or call McKhann at (218) 349-9121.

Making homes poison-free

You might think of this week as the week that starts with St. Patrick’s Day and includes the first day of spring. It might be the week when you turn in your basketball brackets and then see them start to fall apart.

But it’s also Poison Prevention Week, the American Lung Association in Minnesota tells us.

The Minnesota Department of Health reported that poisonings became the second-leading cause of unintentional injury deaths in 2011, the American Lung Association’s news release said.

The Duluth Healthy Homes Partnership is marking the week by calling on residents to create poison-free homes, the news release said.

Healthy Homes is a service of the Duluth Housing Resource Connection, which in turn is a consortium of five local housing agencies.

Three steps you can take:

-- Properly dispose of any household hazardous materials.

-- If you believe a child or loved one may have been poisoned, call the National Poison Help Line at (800) 222-1222.

-- Pick up free poison prevention educational resources at any Duluth Public Library location.

Living with mental illness

Two speakers will share their stories of living with a mental illness and achieving recovery during a free program on Saturday in Two Harbors.

The “Our Own Voice” program will be from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the Two Harbors Public Library, 320 Waterfront Drive. It’s sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

For more information, call Becky at (218) 834-3148.


Compiled by John Lundy of the News Tribune