Lee Obamacare enrollment ‘average’

Health insurance deadline is Monday
Mar. 29, 2014 @ 05:01 AM

Monday is the deadline for residents to sign up for health insurance coverage or face a penalty from the federal government under the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

“The last couple of weeks have been somewhat hectic,” said Tom Snell, a registered insurance agent with Digital Benefit Advisors and a local Obamacare expert. “A lady in our office [who] does nothing but the individual health care plan is running as hard as she can run.”

The insurance exchanges, which were created under the controversial law, opened in October. After the March 31 deadline, the insurance carriers will not offer open enrollment in the insurances exchanges — found online atwww.healthcare.gov — unless there is a change in a family status, such as a death, birth or change in employment, or someone qualifies for an extension.

The Obama administration announced this week that if people experienced technical difficulties signing up for health insurance through the federal exchanges, they’d be able to enroll past the deadline. Those who are uninsured will face a federal penalty and be locked out of the subsidized plans until next year.

“I would say Lee County has [seen] a fairly average enrollment process,” Snell said. 

Individuals who have health concerns or health problems have mostly all enrolled, he said, but it’s been difficult to get young, healthy men and women enrolled.

Several young people don’t know about the looming deadline, while others would rather pay a $95 penalty instead of spending $300 or $400 in health insurance, Snell said.

If people do not have health insurance by March 31 and do not qualify for an extension, they will either face a fine of 1 percent of their yearly household income or a $95 fee per person, whichever is highest. In 2015, the penalty increases to either 2 percent of a person’s income or $325 per person. In 2016, it’s 2.5 percent of a person’s annual income or $695 per person.

More than 390,000 North Carolinians are eligible to enroll in a Health Care Marketplace Plan, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and there have been a little more than 200,000 individuals who selected a Health Insurance Marketplace Plan from Oct. 1, 2013, to March 1, 2014. 

According to Enroll America, a nonprofit that focuses on “maximizing the number of Americans who are enrolled in and retain health coverage,” there are nearly 26,000 people in Lee and Harnett counties who do not have health insurance and are under the age of 64. Nearly half of those are between the ages of 35 and 54, and nearly 60 percent of them are white.  

“Regardless of my personal opinion of the law, I want to help people understand what the law says and help them do what they need to do,” Snell said. “Because it is the law.”

Ways to enroll in a Health Insurance Marketplace Plan include:

• Visit www.healthcare.gov.

• Call a Healthcare.gov call center at 1-800-318-2596.

• Visit an insurance agent in person. Or contact a local health care insurance navigator by visiting www.localhelp.healthcare.gov.