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Heads Up! Shortened Health Exchange Open Enrollment Begins Today

More than 560,000 North Carolinians signed up under the Affordable Care Act for 2017, but there are concerns that number could shrink with the reality of higher premiums. (Presidencia de la Repúblic/flickr)
More than 560,000 North Carolinians signed up under the Affordable Care Act for 2017, but there are concerns that number could shrink with the reality of higher premiums. (Presidencia de la Repúblic/flickr)
November 1, 2017

RALEIGH, N.C. - Whether you consider it a trick or a treat, open enrollment for the health exchange under the Affordable Care Act begins today.

This year, the federal government has cut funding for the health-care navigator program as well as payments to insurers to offset the cost of premiums. However, Brendan Riley, health-policy analyst for the North Carolina Justice Center, said it's important to know that regardless of efforts by the Trump administration, the system still is available to the hundreds of thousands who need it.

"Roughtly nine out of 10 qualify for reduced costs thanks to financial help that's still there under the law," Riley said. "None of that has changed. People can still qualify for reduced-cost plans that lower their monthly premiums to get lower deductibles and to afford their health insurance."

Riley said it's also important to remember that the open enrollment is shortened this year from three months to 45 days. North Carolina is one of 18 states suing the Trump administration to prevent the cutoff of subsidies. Riley said two-thirds of North Carolinians who purchase health coverage through the exchange qualify for subsidies. The Trump administration has said the ACA is a failing system - regardless of changes it has ordered itself.

While consumers work over the next six weeks to purchase coverage, Riley said, it's important to understand the cause of their higher premiums.

"The Trump administration is actively trying to sabotage the Affordable Care Act in order to claim victory and try to pass some other policies in the future," he said, "so what the Trump administration did most recently by cutting off insurance company reimbursements directly caused premiums to go up by 14 percent for North Carolinians."

North Carolinians can call 855-733-3711 to schedule an appointment with a health navigator or access help in enrollment over the phone. About 549,000 people in North Carolina enrolled in private plans during last year's enrollment period, which is 64,000 fewer than the prior year.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC