For North Carolina enrollees on federal marketplace, nothing changes for now

07/22/2014 3:54 PM

07/23/2014 6:20 AM

Tuesday’s appeals court rulings on the Affordable Care Act “don’t change anything” for North Carolina, said Sorien Schmidt, state director of Get Covered America, a national campaign to educate uninsured consumers about the availability of health insurance through the 2010 law.

Although the two decisions were contradictory, the unanimous ruling from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers North Carolina, “upheld the law the way it’s being implemented here,” Schmidt said. “While the legal process and the appeals will continue this doesn’t change anything for us.”

She said the campaign’s volunteers “will continue to reach out to uninsured North Carolinians to let them know that financial help will still be available.”

North Carolina was the fifth-highest in the nation for enrollments, with 357,584 signing up for individual coverage under the Affordable Care Act. That surpassed most expectations, particularly for a Republican-controlled state that chose not to run its own insurance exchange and not to expand Medicaid for very low-income residents.

Almost all of North Carolina’s enrollments came with federal subsidies, suggesting that many of those signing up had been unable to afford coverage in the past. Whereas 85 percent of national enrollments were subsidized, North Carolina’s subsidization rate is 91 percent.

North Carolinians who bought subsidized health insurance through the Affordable Care Act are paying $81 a month, on average. Without subsidies, those policies would cost $381 a month, on average, and markedly above the national average monthly premium of $346.

In Charlotte, Madison Hardee, a lawyer with Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, said she expects questions from consumers who signed up on the marketplace last fall and earlier this year. She said her message will be simple: “Don’t panic. This decision is just the first step in a long process.”

Susan Royster, associate executive director of North Carolina MedAssist, agreed that people should not worry now.

“From what we’ve read, it really won’t affect anyone this year,” said Royster, whose nonprofit agency helped consumers enroll through the federal exchange. “If you’re getting a subsidy, it should not affect that for this enrollment period.”

One of MedAssist’s navigators enrolled a new family Tuesday morning, Royster said. The breadwinner had lost a job with health insurance and found another job that doesn’t offer insurance. The family was thrilled to get insurance on the marketplace, Royster said. “I would hate for someone like that to be upset or to think they’re not going to get the subsidy they were told they would get.” John Murawski of The (Raleigh) News & Observer contributed.

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