Nonprofit works to inform people of options under new health law
Posted September 10, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — An estimated 1.3 million North Carolinians don't have health insurance, and the Affordable Care Act requires everyone to have coverage by next year or pay a tax penalty.
Facing that deadline, Sorien Schmidt's mission is to get as many state residents covered as possible in the coming weeks.
Schmidt is the state director of Enroll America, a privately funded nonprofit that aims to help the uninsured learn about the online marketplace where people can compare available insurance plans and sign up for coverage. The marketplace, known as an exchange, opens for enrollment Oct. 1.
"Polling data includes a lot of people who are confused about what's available to them and how to access it, and so that's why we're really concentrating on going out to get that kind of information," Schmidt said Tuesday.
"The most important thing for us at this point is to let people know, if you’re uninsured, if you feel like your insurance is not covering what you need, you should go and look at t his and see if you can get the best plan for you (and) your family so that you’re comfortable at night knowing your health care needs are met," she said.
About one-fifth of North Carolina's uninsured people live in Wake, Mecklenburg and Guilford counties, Schmidt said.
"A large percentage of those are actually working, and as many as 80 percent are living in families with workers. So, they really reflect the new market of contractors (and) part-time workers, and it’s harder to get insurance," she said.
Enroll America is taking a grassroots approach to its outreach effort, using census data and mapping technology to target specific neighborhoods.
"We'll be at tables at churches and be outside Walmart, places where we think the uninsured will be going or more likely to live," she said.
A door-to-door effort in the targeted neighborhoods will take place Sept. 21.
Schmidt said, however, that Enroll America volunteers won't actually enroll anyone in any health plan. They will provide brochures and explain their options, she said.
"We want to protect people's privacy," she said. "We understand they would have to give out personal information if we were doing it at the door, so we want to lead them to experts to provide that kind of help."