The open enrollment period for the Health Insurance Marketplace, aka Obamacare, has begun. Enrollment runs through Nov. 1 and ends Dec. 15.
After a recent executive order by President Donald Trump, Pisgah Legal Services, a Western North Carolina nonprofit law firm that provides free civil legal aid, noted that there are a “lot of questions swirling around health insurance” through the Affordable Care Act these.
But, the organization said, the Affordable Care Act is still the law and that the coverage and subsidies remains the same. No changes have been made to the financial assistance available to consumers under the ACA.
In Western North Carolina, Blue Cross Blue Shield is the only health insurance provider offering ACA plans. It’s also the only provider offering ACA plans in all 100 counties of North Carolina. BCBS increased its rates for the 2018 Affordable Care Act plans by 14.1 percent after requesting a 22.9 percent increase.
In a release, BCBS said that the recent executive order “does not impact 2018 premiums,” but “ending these federal reimbursements will drive up premium costs and make it harder for insurers to participate in the ACA marketplace in the long run.”
N.C. Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey recently reminded individuals without health insurance to consider the federal Health Insurance Marketplace, according to a release from the N.C. Department of Insurance,
“This is a shorter enrollment period than previous years,” said Commissioner Causey. “If you do not have health insurance elsewhere, you need to take part in Open Enrollment to make sure you choose the best insurance plan to meet your needs as well as determine if you qualify for tax subsidies to offset premium costs.”
That release estimated that 85 percent of N.C. residents insured in ACA plans with Blue Cross Blue Shield are eligible for financial assistance with their health insurance plans.
Outside the Open Enrollment period, the only way to buy health insurance from Healthcare.gov under the ACA is to qualify for special enrollment due to having a child or adopting children, losing health coverage or moving.
Under the Affordable Care Act, residents are required to maintain ACA compliant insurance or be subject to penalty. Residents are guaranteed to be insurable and are encouraged to sign up for health insurance if they meet one of the following conditions:
- They have current qualifying ACA coverage but may want to change their plan for 2018.
- They don’t have health insurance through their employer or their spouse’s employer.
- They don’t have government coverage (such as veterans, Medicare and Medicaid).
- They are older than age 26 and can no longer be on a parent’s health insurance.
To enroll in or change 2018 ACA health insurance policies, consumers may visit www.healthcare.gov.
Consumer specialists at the N.C. Department of Insurance are available to answer any questions during ACA Open Enrollment by calling 1-855-408-1212.
ACA Partners of WNC participating organizations give local residents free, unbiased health insurance information and enrollment assistance in the NC Health Insurance Marketplace.
These organizations include: Pisgah Legal Services, Blue Ridge Community Health Services, Council on Aging of Buncombe County, Legal Aid of North Carolina, Mountain Projects, Inc., Sunrise Community, Western Carolina Medical Society and WNC Community Health Services.
In Watauga County, Alex Noriega, a local health insurance marketplace navigator with High Country Community Health, is accepting appointments on Saturdays (excluding Nov. 25) from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the open enrollment period at the Watauga County Public Library.
To schedule an appointment please call Alex Noriega at 828-773-7297 or email her at [email protected]. Appointment times are: 9:30 a.m. 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m. & 2 p.m. Click relevant days on Watauga County Public Library schedule for more information and suggested documentation to bring.
To see where else you can find local help in Western North Carolina with your health insurance application, click here.