Press release from Pisgah Legal Services:
Only a few days remain for people in need of health insurance to sign up for Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance, also known as “Obamacare.” Open Enrollment for 2021 coverage ends December 15.
Pisgah Legal Services (PLS), and its Enrollment Partners of WNC, are offering free assistance to people in the 18-county mountain region, helping them review their options and sign up for plans. The COVID-19 outbreak is making health care coverage even more important in these difficult times.
“This is the most critical open enrollment period of my career, and I’ve been at Pisgah Legal Services for all of them,” says Jackie Kiger, Chief Operations Officer. “With high unemployment and the fact that North Carolina hasn’t expanded Medicaid, there are many more uninsured people. We are seeing people who have lost jobs, income, and insurance and who are struggling with the unemployment benefit system.”
Appointments Still Available with PLS or Go Directly to Healthcare.Gov
Appointments can be made online at www.pisgahlegal.org/aca or by calling (828) 210-3404. For the safety of consumers, staff and volunteers, all appointments are currently being conducted by phone. Depending on where you live in WNC, some of Pisgah Legal’s ACA Partners may be offering in-person appointments.
Shannon Cornelius, Pisgah Legal’s Health Justice Program Director, says, “We are seeing very strong interest this year in sign-ups, but we still have some openings for safe and contact-free help with our trained assisters. There is still time to make an appointment if you act quickly.”
Cornelius also says that people can also go directly to the Health Insurance Marketplace, www.healthcare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596, if they ready to sign up on their own.
Financial assistance is still available to those who qualify. Last year, more than 90 percent of North Carolinians who enrolled for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace received financial assistance to make their plans more affordable. Subsidies are based on household taxable income and may be difficult for consumers to calculate themselves. Pisgah Legal can help with this process and can factor in unemployment benefits if needed. Pisgah Legal can also answer questions about other coverage, such as COBRA, and help people apply for Medicaid and CHIP.
Pisgah Legal and other Enrollment Partners of WNC participating organizations give local residents free, unbiased health insurance information and enrollment assistance in the NC Health Insurance Marketplace. These organizations include: Council on Aging of Buncombe County, Blue Ridge Community Health Services, Legal Aid of North Carolina, Mountain Projects, Inc., Western Carolina Medical Society, and Pisgah Legal Services.
The ACA – also known as “Obamacare” – is the law that ensures access to quality, affordable health insurance on the Health Insurance Marketplace. With these plans, consumers are protected and:
- Can’t be denied coverage for a pre-existing health condition and can’t be dropped for getting sick;
- Insurers can’t charge higher premiums to women; and
- Insurers can’t sell substandard plans that don’t pay for essential health care benefits.
Since 1978, nonprofit Pisgah Legal Services has provided free civil legal aid to help people with low incomes seek justice and meet their basic needs including preventing homelessness, stopping domestic violence and securing health care. Pisgah Legal Services provides a broad array of free, civil legal services in 11 WNC counties, and offers immigration law services in 18 counties. Last year PLS served more than 18,000 people across the mountain region.
PLS has offices in Asheville, Burnsville, Brevard, Hendersonville, Marshall, and Rutherfordton and is now opening a new Highlands/Cashiers office to serve people in Macon and Jackson counties. Pisgah Legal has 32 attorneys on staff and relies heavily on the pro bono legal services of more than 300 volunteer attorneys.
Pisgah Legal Services continues to serve clients during the COVID-19 outbreak. For more information, visit www.pisgahlegal.org to apply for help online or make a gift in support of this important work.