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Don't want the hassles of Black Friday - consider a refurbished gift this year; day after Thanksgiving travel could be messy - and supporters regroup for recreational marijuana in South Dakota.

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North Carolinians Urged to Consider Health Needs During Fall Enrollment

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Thursday, September 30, 2021   

RALEIGH, N.C. -- This fall during open enrollment, millions of Americans will sign up for or switch their health insurance plan for the coming year.

For people with employer-provided coverage, open enrollment is typically a two-week period between September and December. The Biden administration is extending the open-enrollment period by 30 days, giving people more time to sign up for coverage amid the pandemic.

Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare employer and individual, advised North Carolinians to consider their future needs when choosing a plan for 2022.

"Anticipate what your expenses are for next year," Randall suggested. "Are you anticipating you're going to need to have a certain procedure, or you've recently been diagnosed with a specific condition? Or maybe you're planning to expand your family."

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, last year more than 470,000 North Carolina residents enrolled in plans through the health-insurance marketplace, but the state still has a high number of uninsured residents, largely due to lawmakers' refusal to expand Medicaid.

New federal data show record-high enrollment nationwide through the Affordable Care Act.

Randall also pointed to the uptick in mental- health conditions triggered by the pandemic. The North Carolina Healthcare Association reports the number of kids who went to emergency rooms in 2020 because of a behavioral-health issue increased by about 70% compared to the year before.

"We have seen an increased interest in mental-health needs lately, so that's another important thing to check on," Randall stated. "Does your employer have an Employee Assistance Program, and does the medical-plan benefits that they're offering have the mental-health coverage that you're looking for?"

In addition to in-person care, she noted many insurers have expanded their virtual health network of therapists and psychiatrists. Randall added some, including UnitedHealthcare, also offer advocacy services to help people find the right therapist or type of care.

Disclosure: UnitedHealthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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