Mountain Projects’ health care navigators, who have been federally funded to help sign people up for insurance through the ACA Marketplace website, have remained in business this season despite all the uncertainties that lie ahead. Navigator Jane Plummer said Mountain Projects has helped sign up 1,800 people in the seven Western North Carolina counties so far and there are still about two weeks until the deadline.
“We’ve been very busy — I think we have more people enrolling this year than in the past whether they are new, renewing or changing their plan,” Plummer said. “I think people have more urgency about getting signed up than worrying about it going away.”
While people had questions and uncertainty prior to the Nov. 8 election, Plummer said the day after the election was the busiest day for enrollment that the navigators have had so far.
People have a lot of questions about what will happen to their ACA marketplace plan if and when Congress repeals ACA, but health care providers, navigators and insurance agents don’t have many answers for them right now. The only certain things right now are that the deadline to renew or sign up for an insurance policy for 2017 is Jan. 31 and the penalties for not having insurance are still in place.
Jan. 15 was the last day to sign up for a Marketplace policy that would go into effect Feb. 1, but people still have time to sign up by Jan. 31 for a policy that takes effect March 1. Once open enrollment closes, only people who qualify for a “life change” will be allowed to enroll. Native Americans and their spouses may be eligible to enroll year round with proof of tribal membership.
Plummer said people who had a Marketplace plan with United Healthcare or Aetna in 2016 actually have an additional month to enroll since those two providers are no longer offering plans on the ACA website. Blue Cross Blue Shield is now the only North Carolina insurance provider offering plans on the Marketplace.
In addition to the Mountain Projects navigators, local hospitals also trained and designated employees to walk people through the new process. They can help people shop for a new plan in the online federal insurance marketplace and determine whether they qualify for subsidies based on their household income and family size.
Many Americans have not been happy with their inflated insurance premiums and deductibles under Obamacare, but Plummer said many of the people she and other navigators help sign up qualify for a federal subsidy for their insurance plan.
“Most of our consumers we helped have plans for less than $100 a month with the help of the subsidies and many are paying less this year than in the past years so there are still affordable plans available,” she said. “We encourage people not to wait until the last day to sign up.”
The penalty in 2016 and 2017 for not having health coverage is $695 for each person on your tax return who isn’t covered or 2.5 percent of your household income, whichever is more. Fees are paid when you go to file a federal income tax return.
• For assistance in signing up for a health insurance policy on the Affordable Care Act Marketplace website, contact Mountain Projects’ healthcare navigators at 828.452.1447 or toll free at 800.627.1548.
• Certified Application Counselors at Haywood Regional Medical Center are also on hand to help you understand your options by calling 828.452.8192.