Open Enrollment Begins for ACA

RALEIGH - Folks looking to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, got a little assistance on the first day of open enrollment for 2016 with kickoff events across the state.

“They're great plans,” says Sorien Schmidt, the NC Director for Enroll America. “They'll be able to look at the many different plans and pick the one that is best for them and their health needs and their budget.”

North Carolinians using ACA may see higher costs for plans this year. In fact, the state’s largest insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, was given approval to raise its rates by an average of 32.5%. But advocates say this might not hit people's wallet too hard.

“However the good thing about the marketplace is there is financial help for the cost of those premiums,” says Jennifer Simmons with Legal Aid of North Carolina.  “So as the prices for different plans go up, the financial help that people get may go up too.”

Don Taylor is public policy professor at Duke University. He says questions of premium costs associated with ACA are a top concern for many.

“If you went to the May 2011 period, you had Republicans criticizing the ACA saying this is a give-away, we need more skin in the game,” says Taylor. “And then once you got to the point where people started having these plans you started seeing that people with ACA had very high deductibles.  All of a sudden people starting criticizing ACA for such large out of pocket costs even after they were covered with insurance.”

But higher costs or not, the incentive to get insurance is still there because there will also be a higher cost if you don't get the federally mandated health coverage. The new fines for not having health insurance is $695 for individuals, or 2.5% of the family's household income.

“We know a lot of people have looked at the marketplace in the past and decided maybe it’s just not for them at that time,” says Simmons.  “We encourage everybody to come, even if you considered it, because this year the plans and prices have changed and the fine is going up.”

Open enrollment runs through January 31, 2016.  If you want insurance coverage beginning on January 1, you will need to enroll by December 15th.

People can also schedule appointments by calling 1-855-733-3711 or visiting www.getcoveredamerica.org/connector