Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Obamacare, Affordable Care Act, North Carolina, Health Exchange, Medicaid


By Mildred Robertson

Today marks the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare.” Under the Affordable Care Act, families with incomes falling between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level will qualify for subsidies to help them purchase health insurance coverage in the new health insurance marketplaces referred to as “exchanges”.

It is expected that up to 1.5 million North Carolinians will be shopping for health insurance on the new health exchange offered through the federal government. Although the state of North Carolina chose not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, officials estimate roughly 70,000 new North Carolinians may enroll in Medicaid through the program.

Consumers will not have to determine their own eligibility for subsidies, and the same application used to apply for private coverage in the exchange will be used to determine eligibility for Medicaid coverage. Therefore, if you meet the income qualifications and apply through the exchange, you will be enrolled in Medicaid.

Because North Carolina turned down Medicaid expansion and declined $27 million in federal assistance to inform citizens about the new healthcare exchange, North Carolinians will pay more and have fewer choices than people in states that embraced the Affordable Care Act. Only two carriers will sell subsidized plans in the state; Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Coventry Health Care of the Carolinas.

Also, the state’s most vulnerable will still be left without insurance. Some people with wages too high to qualify for Medicaid, but who earn too little to qualify for credits on the exchange will be left uninsured.

In order to get the word out about the new health exchanges, federal grants have been provided to non-profits across the state to dispatch “navigators” to help citizens learn about and enroll in the health exchange. In North Carolina, some county social services departments will provide office space for these navigators.

For more information on the Affordable Care Act, or to enroll, go to www.healthcare.org.

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