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Health care forum aims to educate

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The timing of a recent executive order is meant to confuse consumers about the availability of low-cost health insurance premiums, according to a local lawmaker set to attend a town hall meeting on the subject tonight in Rocky Mount.

The Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, requires that income eligible consumers receive help with premiums and costs at a certain level. President Donald Trump cannot change that by executive order, said N.C. Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash.

“Trump’s recent executive order in the news will not change anything regarding the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare sign-up period for 2018 coverage starting on Nov. 1 and lasting until Dec. 15,” Bryant said. “In fact, the timing and publicity of Trump’s executive order appears designed to confuse consumers that somehow the premium subsidies and cost reductions will not be available this year — and that is not true.”

Despite confusing messages regarding the Affordable Care Act and continued efforts to destabilize the Health Insurance Marketplace, the 2018 Open Enrollment Period will continue as planned, and eligible consumers in North Carolina will have options for health coverage that include both Advance Premium Tax Credits and Cost-sharing Reductions, said Nicole Dozier, director of the Health Advocacy Project for the N.C. Justice Center.

“Now that members of Congress have begun to work in a bipartisan manner to improve health care delivery and stabilize the market, the Trump Administration has instead been working overtime to sabotage the law of the land, sowing fear and confusion,” Dozier said. “We are pleased to travel to Rocky Mount to share the facts and discuss what we can do together to protect and expand access to care for all.”

Financial help with premiums and cost-sharing help with out-of-pocket costs like co-pays and deductibles are still available to consumers. All consumers, new and renewing, should return to the Health Insurance Marketplace during Open Enrollment to explore their options and enroll in health coverage. Plans and prices change every year, but it’s more important than ever to make sure the plan you had in 2017 is still right for 2018, Dozier said.

Blue Cross Blue Shield announced its price increases had already been baked into its previously announced approved rate increases at the state level and that the insurance provider will be offering a full array of plans across the state.

“In fact Trump’s executive order will not even affect coverage for this year; instead, his prior threat of withholding certain payments to incentivize insurers to offer lower costs caused insurers to raise their costs earlier as a precaution,” Bryant said.

Trump’s withholding of the payments to insurers does not hurt people who receive premium tax credits or subsidies, who are individuals with annual incomes of $30,000 or less, but will only hurt those middle class consumers who are using the federal marketplace for access to affordable individual and family policies and who were paying the full costs themselves because they make too much income to qualify for the subsidies, Bryant said.

That’s why it’s so important for folks to attend the Health Care Town Hall Meeting tonight, Bryant said.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 to 8:15 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at Rocky Mount City Hall. The latest information will be presented on changes to Obamacare and other North Carolina health issues, including Medicaid and Mental Health and Substance Abuse and Children’s Health Insurance or CHIP.

“Those affordable cost opportunities will still be there; however, the out-of-pocket costs will vary with the different plans,” Bryant said. “So attending the Town Hall Meeting or meeting with a navigator can help you learn about which plans have the lowest out-of-pocket costs as well as premium costs.”

Free, in-person assistance will be available to help people understand their options and enroll in coverage through the Federal Qualified Health Centers: OIC Family Medical Center, the Rural Health Group, Carolina Family Medical Center and Vidant Edgecombe Hospital. Each agency will have representatives at tonight’s meeting to provide the details of their enrollment plans and the health services these Health Centers provider.

For more information call 855-733-3711.

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