RALEIGH, September 2, 2015 – The NC Navigator Consortium, a group of 14 health care, social service and legal aid organizations, has been awarded $2,610,472 in federal funding to help North Carolina consumers enroll in affordable health insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act during the 2015-2016 open-enrollment period, the second-largest grant in the country for this period.
The grant was announced today by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The announcement is available on the Centers’ website, www.cms.gov.
Legal Aid of North Carolina, a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free civil legal aid to low-income North Carolinians, is the leader of the consortium and will administer the grant.
The grant will fund a corps of about 250 navigators, who are trained to help consumers understand the details of plans available on the Health Insurance Marketplace at www.healthcare.gov, determine which plan will best meet the needs of their family, apply for financial assistance, and complete the enrollment process.
Of the more than 492,000 North Carolinians who enrolled in a health insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act, 93 percent received financial assistance. The average cost of insurance for North Carolinians receiving financial assistance is $95 a month.
Navigators meet with consumers in free, in-person, one-on-one, confidential sessions at convenient locations throughout the state. Strict security and privacy standards are in place to ensure that consumers’ personally identifiable information is protected.
The consortium will focus its efforts during this open-enrollment period, the third since the Affordable Care Act Health Insurance Marketplace launched in 2013, on outreach to Hispanics; persons with limited English proficiency, including recent immigrants and refugees; populations underserved in the health insurance marketplace, especially rural communities; individuals with disabilities; young adults and those leaving post-secondary educational institutions; and LGBT populations.
The 2015-2016 open-enrollment period runs from Nov. 1, 2015, to Jan. 31, 2016. Plans must be selected by Dec. 15, 2015, for coverage to begin Jan. 1, 2016. Navigators are available to answer consumers’ questions throughout the year. Consumers who have questions about health insurance should call the toll-free navigator helpline at 1-855-733-3711 or visit GetCoveredAmerica.org/Connector to schedule an in-person appointment with a navigator.
Consumers currently enrolled in a Marketplace plan will be automatically re-enrolled unless they choose a new plan. The NC Navigator Consortium urges consumers to seek in-person assistance before automatically re-enrolling. Prices and options change each year, and a navigator can help consumers feel confident they are in the best plan for their family and are receiving the right financial help.
Consumers without health insurance at the end of the open-enrollment period may be subject to a fine on their 2015 tax return. This year, the fine is increasing from $325 per person to $695 per person, or 2.5 percent of the consumer’s income, whichever is greater. Some consumers may be eligible to have the fine waived. Navigators can help consumers apply for waivers.
Thanks in part to the efforts of the consortium, North Carolina has the third-highest number of enrollments out of the nearly 40 states that use HealthCare.gov. Only Florida and Texas, states with more than double the population of North Carolina, have more enrollments.
Members of the consortium are Access East, Capital Care Collaborative, Cape Fear HealthNet, Care Ring, Council on Aging of Buncombe County, Cumberland HealthNet, HealthCare Access, HealthNet Gaston, Legal Aid of North Carolina, Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, MDC, Partnership for Community Care, Pisgah Legal Services and United Way of Greater Greensboro.