New ObamaCare Special Enrollment Period

With job losses continuing to mount amid the Covid-19 resurgence, millions of people have lost their job-based health insurance since the start of the public health and economic crisis.

In response, the Biden Administration has opened up HealthCare.gov to give people who need health insurance a new opportunity to get covered.

Beginning February 15, 2021, Americans will have a new opportunity to sign up for comprehensive, affordable health insurance for 2021. But they must act quickly: the Special Enrollment period ends on May 15, 2021.

Easy to enroll

Enrollment is easy via HealthCare.gov, but for those who would like assistance, Pisgah Legal Services (PLS) and its WNC enrollment partners will help people in the 18-county mountain region review their options and sign up for ACA coverage. Partner organizations include the Council on Aging of Buncombe County, Blue Ridge Community Health Services, Legal Aid of North Carolina, Mountain Projects, Inc., and the Western Carolina Medical Society.

“More than 535,000 North Carolinians enrolled in a health insurance plan during the last Open Enrollment period,” said Shannon Cornelius, Pisgah Legal’s Health Justice Program Director. “This is a new chance for people to sign up, and anyone who needs health insurance should visit HealthCare.gov today, or contact Pisgah Legal Services if you need assistance. Don’t delay.”

ACA coverage is affordable and universal

Health insurance is more affordable than many people think. In North Carolina, 83% of current marketplace consumers had plans available for 2021 with out-of-pocket costs under $50 per month. That affordability reflects that nine of 10 marketplace enrollees in the state received financial help that lowered their monthly health insurance premiums.

Another 57% of enrollees also qualified for lower out-of-pocket costs for health care services. “With this new Special Enrollment Period, both new and existing marketplace consumers can shop for marketplace plans, compare options and costs, and even make changes. It opens up the ability to get health insurance outside of Open Enrollment. Our certified application counselors can help answer questions and get you enrolled in the plan that works best for you and your family,” said Cornelius.

Coverage is comprehensive by design

Consumers enrolling in a plan on HealthCare.gov are guaranteed to receive comprehensive coverage, with no pre-existing condition exclusions or markups. All plans cover essential benefits, including doctor and hospital visits, prescription drugs, mental health treatment, and maternity care. In addition, consumers receive free preventive care services, such as immunizations and health screenings. Testing and treatment of Covid-19 are considered essential health benefits and are covered by all HealthCare.gov plans.

Cornelius also warns consumers to avoid insurance plans offered outside of HealthCare.gov, plans that often seem too good to be true—because they are. “Junk insurance” products and short-term limited duration plans and pose huge financial risks to consumers. These products can refuse to pay for care for pre-existing conditions, charge consumers more based on their gender, and impose annual coverage limits.

“HealthCare.gov is the only website where North Carolina consumers are guaranteed to get comprehensive coverage,” said Cornelius.

Make a free appointment today

Appointments can be made online at www.pisgahlegal.org/aca or by calling (828) 210-3404. For the safety of consumers, staff and volunteers, all Pisgah Legal Services appointments are currently being conducted by phone, some community partners may offer in-person assistance.

Pisgah Legal Services

Since 1978, nonprofit Pisgah Legal Services (PLS) has provided free civil legal aid to help people with low incomes seek justice and meet their basic needs including preventing homelessness, stopping domestic violence, and securing health care. PLS provides a broad array of free legal services in 11 WNC counties and offers immigration and ACA health insurance assistance in 18 counties. Last year Pisgah Legal served more than 20,000 people across the mountain region.

PLS has offices in Asheville, Burnsville, Brevard, Hendersonville, Highlands/Cashiers, Marshall, and Rutherfordton. Pisgah Legal employs staff attorneys and relies heavily on the pro bono legal services of more than 300 volunteer attorneys.

Pisgah Legal Services continues to serve clients during the COVID-19 outbreak. For more information, visit www.pisgahlegal.org to apply for help online or make a gift in support of this important work.

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