As the March 31 deadline to get coverage is fast approaching, about 391,000 North Carolinians have signed up for an Obamacare health insurance plan through the government-run online market place, according to federal officials.
Dr. Renard Murray is the Regional Administrator for the Centers for Medicare And Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency running the Health Insurance Marketplace at HealthCare.gov.
Murray says more than 5 million people across the country have signed up for health insurance through the marketplace, though he did not say how many were previously insured.
Through HealthCare.gov, people can find out what health care coverage plans are available, and they can also select a plan and fill out the application form online. Applicants will have to pay a premium to begin coverage.
Open enrollment ends on Monday, March 31, 2014. Americans have until then to decide what plan they feel is best for themselves and their families.
“We don’t want people who are uninsured or those who know individuals who are uninsured to miss that deadline because once it closes on March 31st, it is not going to open again until November of this year, and coverage will not start until January of 2015,” Murray says.
All people, with a few exceptions, will be required to have health insurance. If you already have health insurance through a private provider, you are not required to change your coverage.
Citizens who can afford health insurance, but do not purchase it by the deadline, will be charged a fine.
“The actual penalty is $95 or it is one percent of your adjusted gross income. That is paid in 2015 when you file your 2014 tax returns. You are required to have coverage in 2014,” Murray says.
People can also reach the HealthCare.gov Call Center at 1-800-318-2596, a line which is open 24/7. A representative will be available to walk consumers through the enrollment process.
“If you call the Call Center, you can find local help,” Murray says. “There are local representatives within the communities of North Carolina that are able to help people get enrolled in the marketplace. You can actually find local help by going to the website or calling the Call Center.”
Murray explains that people with pre-existing conditions can sign up through HealthCare.gov.
“It doesn’t matter whether you had an illness five, six, seven years ago. And also through the Marketplace, there are tax credits that can defray the cost of insurance. We are finding people who are finding plans possibly for less than $10 a month.”
A revised estimate by the Obama Administration predicts that 6 million Americans will enroll in health plans sold on the exchanges by the March 31st deadline.