By Nathan Ham
As the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing, President Joe Biden has announced a special enrollment period for Obamacare that started Monday, February 15, and will continue through May 15. The decision is seen as a way to help numerous individuals who have lost their employer-offered healthcare due to job losses, layoffs and business closures.
While the economy has shown some jobs bouncing back, the numbers are still slim compared to the millions of jobs lost in 2020. According to the United States Labor Department, the economy gained 49,000 jobs in January and the unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent. However, the number of people in the “labor force” continues to decline with a participation rate of just 61.4 percent as an estimated 406,000 workers left the labor force last month. Over 10 million people remain unemployed, which is 4.3 million more people than before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States. Many companies have cut jobs or simply closed down and those jobs have not returned. The labor department also reported a drop of 227,000 jobs with many of those being part-time and seasonal jobs for the holidays.
To sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, applications must be submitted online by May 15 at HealthCare.gov. Locally in Watauga County, High Country Community Health’s Outreach and Enrollment team has Certified Application Counselors available to the public free of charge to provide assistance getting enrolled in coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Many times, it is easier to work with individuals that are trained to help people sign up for health insurance and can oftentimes keep you from paying more money than you need as a way to meet your health insurance needs. High Country Community Health can be reached by phone at 828-773-7297.