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Health Team

Expert: Interest in Obamacare coverage rises during pandemic

Posted December 20, 2020 1:14 p.m. EST
Updated December 21, 2020 5:24 a.m. EST

A local expert says more North Carolinians are showing interest in Affordable Care Act health care plans as unemployment numbers rise during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mark Van Arnam, Director of the N.C. Navigator Consortium, said historically between 500,000 and 600,000 North Carolinians enroll in ACA plans during open enrollment each year, and most enroll during the final week.

This year's final enrollment numbers won't be in for several weeks, but Van Arnam said he has already noticed more calls.

"People were really engaged like they haven't been for several years, and I think that is because of the pandemic," he said.

The enrollment period ended Dec. 15, but people who lost their health care coverage have a 60-day window to apply for coverage after losing their job or being furloughed. This year, due to the pandemic, many people are eligible to enroll for an extended window of time, even after the 60-day period ends.

On Dec. 3, Van Arnam and the N.C. Navigator Consortium participated in 5 On Your Side's virtual phone bank to help people get answers to all their questions about enrolling for ACA coverage. Arnam said more than 1,000 people called in, and 400 more left phone messages because they couldn’t get through.

Van Arnam attributes the high interest to the pandemic and unemployment.

"We know this is happening every day, unfortunately, from the mountains to the coast," he said. "The peace of mind of having healthcare during a pandemic is like nothing else. You can rest a lot easier knowing you will have the care you need if you do get sick and knowing you don't have to worry about bankruptcy."

Van Arnam encourages people with questions about ACA enrollment to visit ncnavigator.net to make a virtual consultation or to call 1-855-733-3711.

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