Access to Healthcare
Access to healthcare
United Way of Alamance County fights for the health of every person in our community. Access to affordable, quality healthcare is critical to accomplish this goal. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides small business owners, entrepreneurs, and working people who do not get health insurance through their employer, the ability to purchase insurance on the marketplaces. Health insurance may be cheaper than most people realize, as many qualify for tax subsidies that lower the cost of coverage, and increase as the cost of premiums rise. November 1 marked the beginning of the ACA Open Enrollment period. But unlike past years, the enrollment period is much shorter, ending on December 15. The Times-News recently did a news piece on the ACA, the full article is below. United Way of Alamance County has been working with local partners (Alamance County Health Department, Alamance County Public Libraries, Legal Aid of North Carolina, Piedmont Health Services, Healthy Alamance, Alamance Regional, and others) on a collaborative stakeholder group in order to increase access and awareness of the ACA. We encourage our community partners to help us get the word out to consumers about the December 15th deadline. Local enrollment assistance is available, please visit the connector to make an appointment, it can be found on our website.
Less than four weeks to sign-up under ACA
There is less than a month to get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, which seems to be a surprise to a lot of people.
“There’s a lot of interest around confusion because some people are not sure –they’re hearing things on the news or just they’re just hearing things from [other] people,” said April Durr, director of community impact at United Way of Alamance County. “It’s still the law, and open enrollment is in full swing.”
Enrollment period: Nov. 1 to Dec. 15
Get help online: connector.getcoveredamerica.org
April Durr, the Director of Community Impact with the United Way of Alamance County, left, and Elon Alamance Health Partner Chloe Donohoe talk about the change to the Affordable Healthcare Act sign up deadline this year which ends on Dec.15 and the local initiatives to help people sign up for health insurance before the deadline. [Photo Credit: Steven Mantilla/Times-News]
Face-to-face help: Enrollment event 9 a.m.–noon Dec. 9, Charles Drew Community Health Center, 221 N. Graham-Hopedale Road, Burlington
Short enrollment period
Most of the talk about Obamacare lately has been about dismantling the program one way or another, but whatever happens shouldn’t affect the program this year.
It is a little harder to sign up, though. This year’s enrollment period, ending Dec. 15, is half as long as previous years.
“It’s only 45 days, and it’s the shortest enrollment period so far,” said Chloe Donohoe, Elon Alamance Health Partner for the Alamance County Health Department, who guides people through the process.
The ACA enrollment website, healthcare.gov, also is offline for maintenance from midnight Saturdays to noon Sundays.
Durr doesn’t recommend waiting to enroll.
“If you wait until the last minute to go online and do your research and enroll, it’s possible you could run into a problem,” Durr said.
To enroll with the help of a navigator or other assistant, have your:
-Addresses, birth dates and Social Security numbers for everyone needing coverage
-Income information — an estimate is OK
-An hour to an hour and a half
The pros and cons of the ACA seem likely to be argued bitterly until doomsday, but some of the effects are pretty straightforward, like the percentage of uninsured people. Alamance County had 8,663 fewer people with no health insurance in 2015 than it did in 2010.
Uninsured people in Alamance County younger than 65:
2006: 21.1 percent — 26,232 people
2008: 18.8 percent — compared to 17.4 percent statewide
2010 (the year the ACA became law): 21.3 percent — 26,845 people
2012: 20.3 percent — compared to 19 percent statewide
2014: 16.5 percent — compared to 13.6 percent nationwide
2015: 14.1 percent — 18,182 people
Source: U.S. Census Small Area Health Insurance Estimates
Alamance County’s uninsured rate followed the same trends as those of the state and the country, but the county’s rate has pretty consistently been about a percentage point higher than the state’s, which was generally a point or two higher than country’s as a whole.
The ACA has not been everything insurance companies hoped for. Locally that’s visible in the number of companies offering policies in Alamance — one, according to healthcare.gov — down from three at the peak.
ACA insurance providers in Alamance County
2014: BCBS of North Carolina and Aetna
2016 & 2015: BCBS, United Health and Aetna
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation
According to KFF, most North Carolina counties had just one insurer to choose from in 2017 — BCBS — while five counties — Orange, Chatham, Wake, Johnson and Nash — had two options.
Premiums are rising, but it’s complicated.
Insurers have raised premiums and deductibles, according to KFF. BSBC announced a 14.1 percent increase in October. But Durr said about 80 percent of people signing up are getting premiums of about $100.
That’s got a lot to do with tax credits.
An unscientific Times-News analysis using Graham’s ZIP code on healthcare.gov and a hypothetical family of four — with middle-age, nonsmoking parents, moderate medical needs and a household income of $50,000 — found eight plans and an estimated monthly tax credit of $986.
Gold plan (most expensive)
$6,841 estimated yearly cost
$337 premium ($1,323 before tax credit)
$5,000 family deductible
$14,700 maximum out of pocket;
$500 emergency room deductible
Bronze (least expensive)
$5,036 estimated yearly cost
$0 premium ($935 before tax credit)
$13,300 family deductible and maximum out of pocket
Bump that household income up to $100,000, and the estimated premiums for a gold plan go from $2,079 to $1,453. Add about $140 more per month for smokers and other tobacco users.
Reporter Isaac Groves can be reached at email@example.com.