While the sign-up deadline for health care under the Affordable Care Act passed March 31, some can still sign up, according to Julie Klipp Nicholson, an attorney with one of the local nonprofits that has assisted WNC residents in doing so. People who dealt with technical difficulties or have a major life change can still get health care under the ACA.
“If they had begun an application or had tried to access the marketplace and were unable to complete their application due to technical difficulties, then they’ll still be able to complete the application and enroll,” says Nicholson, an attorney with Pisgah Legal Services, one of the nonprofits in charge of signing up people in the area and running a volunteer “navigator” program to directly assist locals with deciphering the health care law.
“If they were online and had technical difficulties, they need to complete that application as soon as possible, either with a navigator, online or through the call center,” she says.
Also, people who have a “life event” such as a new job (or losing an old one) can sign up at any time throughout the year as long as they do so within 30 days of the event.
“That creates a special enrollment period from the time of that event,” Nicholson says.
Pisgah Legal will continue to have volunteer navigators and staff available throughout the year to help locals who meet these qualifications sign up for insurance.
“We’re still taking appointments; we’ve got lots of availability to assist folks in completing this process,” Nicholson notes.
The ACA levies a penalty of $95 or 1 percent of annual income (whichever is greater) on those without health insurance after the deadline, a mandate that has been controversial. However, Nicholson notes that there’s a lot of misinformation out there about this particular issue, and, in fact, multiple exemptions exist. For example, people who would have been eligible for expanded Medicaid but are in a state that refused to expand it, such as North Carolina, will be exempt from the penalty.
“That would have been folks up to 138 percent of the federal poverty limit,” she says. “They should be exempt.” She encourages people worried about the penalty to contact Pisgah as well.
Additionally, the penalty doesn’t require those who might have to pay it to spend the cash immediately, face jail or or incur similar penalties, contrary to plenty of rumors Nicholson that says she tries to debunk.
“It would either be taken out of their tax return or they’d pay it along with their taxes; it’s a tax fine,” Nicholson notes. “I talk to a lot of people saying they’re going to go to jail if they ‘don’t sign up for Obamacare.’ No, that’s not the case. It will be assessed in their 2014 taxes.”
Here’s a list of resources to contact for more information about the ACA.