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One Month Left to Sign Up for Health Insurance Through the Marketplace; High Country Community Health is Here to Help

By Nathan Ham

December 15 is the final day to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace.

If you are not sure if you are covered or would like to know if there might be a better plan that fits you, High Country Community Health is more than happy to help out.

Alex Noriega, the Open Enrollment Coordinator with High Country Community Health, is taking appointments for the next month to help people navigate the health insurance marketplace.

“Anyone that enrolled last year should contact us and see if there’s something different or more affordable they can buy,” said Noriega. “In general, I have seen people find cheaper plans this year. Most of the plans have lower deductibles and lower max expenses out of pocket.”

Appointments are usually scheduled from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, but there are also Saturday appointments available at the Watauga County Public Library. People can schedule their appoints to be at the HCCH office, the library or the Lois E. Harrill Senior Center.

Noriega says that people can sign up for coverage over the phone if they can’t schedule an appointment.

“We always encourage people to come in because it’s easier when they have someone in front of them to answer questions. Over the phone, they can still sign up, they just won’t be able to see the plan. It’s never the same when you’re looking at the plans versus someone telling you over the phone,” she said.

They also have bilingual staff at High Country Community Health to assist Spanish-speaking individuals to get signed up.

Once the December 15 deadline passes, people will not be able to sign up for health insurance unless they have had a “life-changing event” such as losing a job or losing coverage through a spouse losing their job

“Unless something happens and the deadline gets extended, this is the time to take advantage of open enrollment,” said Noriega.

For this year, Blue Cross and Blue Shield still remains the only provider that is offering plans in North Carolina, however they do have several plans to choose from.

High Country Community Health not only works with people to help them sign up for health insurance, but are also here to provide medical, dental and several other services in Watauga and Avery for those with or without health insurance coverage.

“We have the federal designation as a community health center. We offer primary medical, dental and behavioral health care whether they are insured or not. We have a sliding fee scale based on income so we do not turn anybody away,” said Bryan Belcher, the Chief Operating Officer for High Country Community Health. “We offer medication assistance, help with housing issues, offer free Hepatitis B screenings, counselors and psychologists. We just hired a dietician and are starting a diabetes education program. We have a lot to offer the community and we’re glad to be here.”

Belcher said that all of the health insurance application counselors have been trained and certified to help people choose the right plan for them.

To schedule an appointment, Noriega says the best way to reach her is to call her cell phone at 828-773-7297. She can also be reached through the High Country Community Health office number at 828-262-3886 or by email at alexandranoriega@hcchmail.org.

For more information on High Country Community Health, visit their website at http://www.highcountrycommunityhealth.com.