LUMBERTON — Monday is the last day to ensure health care coverage beginning Jan. 1 under the Affordable Care Act, and several Robeson County organizations are still helping residents sign up before the deadline.
Health care navigators with the Robeson Health Care Corporation are guiding insurance seekers through Obama’s complicated health overhaul, popularly referred to as Obamacare. Robeson Health Care Corporation has several centers, including ones in Lumberton, Fairmont, Pembroke and Maxton. More information can be found at rhcc1.com.
To connect with other navigators, call the statewide hotline at 1-855-733-3711.
Residents can also visit healthcare.gov and click on “find local help,” or healthcarenc.org to find a list of local insurance agents providing guidance.
Thomas Scott, the owner of Best-Way Insurance on Roberts Avenue in Lumberton, said he has helped nearly 400 people enroll since Oct. 1. According to Scott, it typically takes him 30 minutes to sign someone up.
“There’s a misconception that this is for poor people only,” Scott said of Obama’s health plan. “But this is for the average American that is working and has to make the decision every month of whether to pay their health insurance or their light bill.”
According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, 1.2 million people have gained health coverage through Obamacare. Of those, 365,000 selected plans from the state and federal marketplaces while another 803,000 were determined eligible for the newly expanded Medicaid program.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 1.9 million visitors to the website were determined eligible but have not yet selected a plan. About 55 million people who do not qualify for Medicare are uninsured. In May, it was projected that about 7 million people would sign up for 2014 coverage.
These numbers could have been higher, says Mary Prescott, a service and implementation executive for Cigna Healthcare, as the Medicaid expansion that came attached to the bill was intended to provide states with additional federal funding to be used to greatly expand their Medicaid programs. The expansion would cover adults under 65 who earn 133 percent of the federal poverty level and anyone under 18. However, after the Supreme Court ruled that states would be allowed to reject the expansion, 21 states with Republican governors chose to opt out, North Carolina being one of them.
“States that embraced and prepared for the law like California have several companies competing, which drives premiums down so that they are substantially lower than in places like North Carolina,” said Prescott, whose own company has been working overtime to prepare for an increase in clients.
Monday is just one deadline to keep in mind. Those who select a plan by Monday will have until Jan. 10 to pay the premium for their first month. With some exemptions, individuals who don’t sign up for insurance by Jan. 1 will be charged a tax penalty of $95 per adult and $47.50 per child or 1 percent of your taxable income, whichever is greater.
Following a White House announcement on Thursday, individuals whose plans were cancelled because of new standards set by the Affordable Care Act will be exempt from having to pay a penalty if not enrolled by Jan. 1.
Those people will be allowed to purchase “catastrophic plans,” which offer minimal coverage and were previously only available to people under 30.
March 31 is the last day of the 2014 open enrollment period.