Q: Open enrollment through the Affordable Care Act marketplace starts Nov. 1. What is the deadline to enroll?
A: The open enrollment window lasts for three months, from Nov. 1 through Jan. 31. Those who want their plan to start by Jan. 1 need to make a choice by Dec. 15. For many people who bought insurance online in 2016, plans will automatically renew if policyholders do nothing. If the current plan is no longer available, they will be matched with a similar one. Because some insurers have dropped out of the marketplace, it’s important to review the available plans. Rates will go up for many plans, and networks of hospitals and doctors may also change.
Q: How can you enroll?
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A: North Carolina and South Carolina residents can sign up through the online federal exchange, www.healthcare.gov, by phone, by mail or with an in-person navigator.
The Get Covered Calculator, a web-based tool, allows consumers to estimate the monthly premium and tax credit/subsidy a consumer can expect. https://www.getcoveredamerica.org/calculator/. Information is also available through the nonprofit, nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, http://kff.org/
Q. Who qualifies for premium tax credits?
A. Those with incomes above 100 percent of the poverty level ($11,770 for an individual or $24,250 for a family of four) and up to 400 percent ($47,080 for an individual and $97,000 for a family of four) are eligible for tax subsidies to make insurance more affordable. About 8 in 10 people who apply are eligible for premiums subsidies.
Q: Where can consumers get help?
A: One-on-one appointments can be scheduled anywhere in North Carolina by calling 1-855-733-3711 (English and Spanish) or visiting www.getcoveredamerica.org/connector. (The link for Spanish speakers https://www.getcoveredamerica.org/es-connector/.) Appointments can be booked now, and free in-person assistance will be available seven days a week during the open enrollment period. South Carolinians can go to https://localhelp.healthcare.gov/.
Get Covered Mecklenburg, a nonprofit coalition of ACA advocates, will host a special “Kick Off to Get Covered” event from 4-7 p.m. Nov. 1 at Renaissance West, 3610 Nobles Ave. Make appointments at the phone number or website above. Walk-ins are also welcome.
Anyone planning to apply for coverage should bring Social Security number, date of birth, employer information, proof of household income (such as W-2 or pay stubs) and policy numbers for any existing coverage.
Q. Are there events for particular communities?
Yes. Central Piedmont Community College and Free Range Brewing will host events to attract young adults. An event at Pizza Peel on Central Avenue will target restaurant employees and service workers. Headlines Barber Shop on Independence Boulevard will continue to host navigators on Friday mornings to sign up African American clientele. Bilingual navigators will staff new locations in Union and Cabarrus counties to assist Spanish speakers.
Here are some dates and times: Nov. 10, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., CPCC Central Campus Health Education Room 2500 (Belk Building), 1201 Elizabeth Ave.; Nov. 12, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Project 658, 3646 Central Ave.; Nov. 17, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., CPCC Harper Campus Room 352-M, 315 W. Hebron St.; Nov. 29, Bethesda Health Center, 133 Stetson Dr. (time to be announced); Dec. 2, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., International House, 1817 Central Ave.; Dec. 10, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Children & Family Services Center, 601 E. Fifth St.; Dec. 12, noon-3 p.m., Pizza Peel, 1600 Central Ave.; Dec. 15, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Renaissance West, 3610 Nobles Ave.
Legal Services will host two events at its office, 1431 Elizabeth Ave., early next year: Jan. 21, 9 a.m.-noon, and Jan. 29, 2 p.m.-6 p.m.
Q: What are penalties for not having insurance?
A: Those who have been uninsured in 2016 will face fines of $695 per adult or 2.5 percent of household income when they file tax returns in 2017. For tax year 2017 and beyond, the percentage will remain at 2.5 percent, but the flat fee will be adjusted for inflation.