Insurance enrollment deadline approaching under health care law
Posted December 16, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — People looking to obtain health insurance for 2014 under the Affordable Care Act have fewer shopping days left than those seeking to buy a last-minute Christmas gift.
To get coverage that takes effect Jan. 1, people must enroll by Dec. 23 and pay their initial premium by Dec. 31.
The HealthCare.gov online marketplace includes a payment button so people can pay the premium when they enroll, with the money redirected to the insurance company. Some people have complained that the payment button didn't work for them, so a Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina spokesman said people can also pay the premium by mail or simply wait for the insurer to send a bill.
A spokesman for Coventry Health Care of the Carolinas, the only other firm to offer health plans in North Carolina through the online exchange, said that the company sends out a bill as soon as it receives enrollment information. Coventry is working to follow-up with customers to encourage them to pay by Dec. 31, he said.
The Obama administration has asked insurers to cover people on Jan. 1 even if they haven't yet paid their premium, but it's not required.
The Blue Cross spokesman said the company plans to be "flexible" to ensure those who signed up by the deadline are covered.
The rate of inaccuracies on HealthCare.gov is declining, but a federal analysis shows about 15,000 sign-up forms were never sent to insurance companies. The error is blamed on technical problems on the site. People are advised to check with their insurance company after enrolling to make sure that their information was received.
Despite various problems with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, faith leaders in the Triangle are encouraging people to sign up. They say it is the moral responsibility of churches – as part of their ministry of healing – to help the uninsured and under-insured access affordable health care.
“Sadly, the roll-out was marred by technological problems that should not have happened, while its opponents threw every possible roadblock in its way," said Rev. George Reed, executive director of the North Carolina Council of Churches. "But now it seems the website is mostly fixed, and thousands of people who have not had affordable health care are getting enrolled.”
Pastors with the Council of Churches called on congregations to do all they can to help their members know the requirements and benefits of the law, noting that it will enable the 1.3 million North Carolinians who don't have insurance to get coverage.
"We do understand that there have been some problems but we’re not concerned about the problems. We're more concerned about how do we move forward and how can we help those who are left behind, for no other reasons besides political motivations and besides some other things that we don't feel as though our God would be pleased with," said Rev. Kenneth Cooper, pastor of Christian Faith Baptist Church in Raleigh.
The Council of Churches is working with Enroll America, a private nonprofit group dedicated to letting people know about health insurance options under the Affordable Care Act. Enroll America claims that six in 10 uninsured Americans can get coverage through the online marketplace for less than $100 a month.
“For these uninsured North Carolinians, this is not about politics or a website," said Sorien Schmidt, state director for Enroll America. "This is about having affordable insurance available, often for the first time in years. They will no longer stay awake at night wondering if they’re going to go bankrupt from an unexpected accident or illness.”