Learn about health insurance options Tuesday

Oct 14, 2013

On Tuesday, Haywood County residents will have a chance to learn more about signing up for health insurance through the federal insurance exchange program.

Thanks to Mountain Projects, Inc., Haywood and other western counties are among four regions in the state where “health care navigators” are in place to help those with questions about the new health insurance options figure out the process.

Under the Affordable Care Act, everyone (with a few exceptions) must have or obtain health insurance coverage in 2014. Some existing plans (those put in place after the federal law was enacted in 2010) may not qualify, and their holders have received notice their plan doesn’t qualify. They are being told their premiums will increase. If that increase puts an individual or family in a position of paying more than 9.5 percent of their income for health insurance, they can use the exchange pricing options to find a better deal.  Those who are satisfied with their plans and premiums don’t need to do anything different.

Tuesday’s meeting is scheduled at the Hawyood County Public Library branch in Waynesville, and will run from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

The trained certified navigator staff at Mountain Projects will help walk people through the complicated process of shopping for a health insurance policy. They will also be providing background information on the act and letting people know what to expect when signing up for a policy online through the website healthcare.gov.

Jan Plummer, who is overseeing the navigator program through Mountain Projects, said the application process takes about 10 minutes, and with pay stubs or their annual tax return, individuals can find out what level of subsidy will be offered to help make their policy more affordable.

The exchanges rolled out Oct. 1 amid plenty of complaints about users not being able to get on line. Plummer said paper forms were used to enroll people early in the week, but noted more capacity was added to the federal exchange technology and enrollment can now take place online.  Consumers have until mid-December to enroll for coverage that will become active Jan. 1, 2014.

About half the states have set up online marketplaces where residents in their state can shop online for a policy that best suits their price range and need. Other states, such as North Carolina, chose to use the federal exchange, and two companies (Coventry Health Care of the Carolinas and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina) are offering plans to North Carolina residents.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina has more than two dozen options to choose from and is taking a lead role in promoting the marketplace through outreach efforts such as retail stores, mall kiosks and at community events.

Those who can’t make the Tuesday meeting can stop by a Blue Cross Blue Shield station where agents can actually help individuals complete the process. The Mountain Projects navigators can simply tell individuals how the process works, and prospective enrollees are then responsible for adding their income information and completing the coverage application.

There are plenty of individuals who couldn’t qualify for coverage because of pre-existing conditions or who couldn’t afford insurance who are happy for a chance to have insurance. Others may simply want to see if there is a better deal out there to fit their circumstances.

The Tuesday meeting offers a chance for more answers, along with a step-by-step process to sign up. It is an opportunity worth taking advantage of.