MIKE CAUSEY: Signing up for ACA health coverage may be best option for many in N.C.

Posted November 11, 2017 5:00 a.m. EST
Updated November 11, 2017 6:35 a.m. EST

Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey

Editor's note: Mike Causey is North Carolina's Insurance Commissioner.

While Congress struggles to come to a consensus on how to fix the nation’s healthcare law, North Carolina residents face limited choices when it comes to covering themselves and their families for hospital and doctor visits, along with prescriptions.

For many North Carolinians, signing up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare,” might be the best option available to them. A high percentage of North Carolina enrollees will qualify for subsidies – also known as Premium Tax Credits – based on family income. Depending on your family size, you could be eligible for some amount of subsidy that would reduce your premiums.

If you do not have health insurance elsewhere, I recommend that you go to the ACA’s website at www.healthcare.gov to see if one of the plans offered on the federal exchange is right for you. Many people will find savings by enrolling in one of the ACA plans.

If you plan to check into one of the ACA plans, you need to do it before Dec. 15, during the Open Enrollment period for coverage starting Jan. 1, 2018. This is a shorter enrollment period than in previous years.

Approximately half of North Carolinians find their health insurance coverage elsewhere. Many find the best way to get health insurance is through their employers’ group plan. Some employers pay part to all of the premiums for the employee and provide options for the employee to purchase dependent coverage.

Older residents are eligible for Medicare coverage. Many veterans are eligible for VA benefits. Medicaid is available for many of the state’s lower income residents.

The options, however, are more limited than they used to be. One major reason, in my opinion, is the ACA. It was supposed to make health insurance and health care more affordable. But it is my view that unfortunately, those goals of the ACA have not yet occurred. I feel the ACA has resulted in decreased competition. Fewer companies means less consumer choices and greater risk to those companies that are participating. When competition decreases, prices go up. I believe that’s one of the big reasons why we’ve seen health insurance prices skyrocket in recent years.

If you’re unsure which health insurance option is best for you, I encourage you to call our consumer experts at the N.C Department of Insurance. The toll-free number is 1-855-408-1212. These men and women will work with you to help you wade through the sometimes-confusing jargon, and help you find the best policy for your budget.

For people who have had sharp increases in health insurance rates this fall, participating in Open Enrollment is the best way to find possible savings.

Everyone needs to be covered. I’m committed to giving consumers broad access to quality, affordable healthcare. I’ll keep working to maintain a stable health insurance market that provides new products and more choices.

Capitol Broadcasting Company's Opinion Section seeks a broad range of comments and letters to the editor. Our Comments beside each opinion column offer the opportunity to engage in a dialogue about this article.

In addition, we invite you to write a letter to the editor about this or any other opinion articles. Here are some tips on submissions >> SUBMIT A LETTER TO THE EDITOR