Published 10:06 am Tuesday, March 25, 2014

By Stephanie Carroll Carson

NC News Service

North Carolinians have one week left to enroll in medical insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

So far, some 200,000 people have signed up in the Tar Heel State – well above the anticipated number of people who would take advantage of the policies available at Healthcare.gov.

A mother of twin girls, Kimberly Tonyan of Cornelius signed up for herself in December and thanks to subsidies available pays $27 a month for their insurance.

“It is a big-time relief,” she said. “I can just sleep at night and, you know, take better care of myself, and we had no issues whatsoever with the website.”

There are trained “navigators” available throughout the state to help people sign up for coverage (People can call 1-855-733-3711 to be connected with them).

If you miss the March 31 deadline, enrollment will not open again until Nov. 15.

As March Madness begins on the basketball courts, UNC’s basketball coach Roy Williams lent his voice to the effort to encourage people to sign up by participating in a video produced by the White House.

According to Adam Searing, health project director at the North Carolina Justice Center, people may be surprised about the affordable coverage that is available to them.

“I think a lot of people think they don’t qualify for assistance, especially younger folks, and I have to say that’s just clearly not the case,” he said.

Tonyan, who is self-employed, wants to encourage others in need of affordable coverage to sign up by the deadline.

“Get out there and do it, because it’s not invasive, it’s nothing intimidating,” she declared. “If you need coverage, do it.”

North Carolina is one of seven states that surpassed its enrollment goal.

In the eastern part of the state, Vidant Health offers help with Health Insurance Marketplace. Vidant officials say that plans are available that fit most needs and budgets and enrollees can’t be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition. Also, financial help may be available for those who qualify.

If you have questions about the new insurance marketplace, you can log onto www.vidanthealth.com/insurancehelp to find resources to guide you through enrollment. From the Vidant Health site, you can request an online appointment to connect with a local, certified and specially-trained representative who will:

Outline all available options, so you can decide what plan is right for you.

Explain the penalties if you don’t have coverage.

Schedule time for any in-person assistance you may need.

You can also call 1-800-472-8500 if you would like to schedule an appointment to meet in person with someone in your own community who has been trained to assist you with your health insurance options.

Under the ACA, if people don’t obtain health coverage by the deadline, there is a penalty of $95 per person for the year. The maximum penalty per family using this method is $285, and advocates point out that the more people who have coverage, the less the burden on the health-care system.