Uninsured North Carolinians Celebrate Obamacare’s Opening Day
State health insurance marketplaces start enrollment push despite government shutdown
(Raleigh, NC) – For the more than 1.5 million uninsured North Carolinians, today is a day to celebrate the long-awaited opening day of Healtcare.gov , the state marketplace for people to enroll in coverage under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Starting today, people who are uninsured or expect to be uninsured in 2014 can sign up for affordable, comprehensive health benefits. When these plans take effect on Jan. 1, 2014, it will fulfill a key promise of the law by outlawing decades of health insurance discrimination against millions of people with pre-existing conditions who were denied coverage or price-gouged if they could get it.
Of the nearly 1 in 5 North Carolinians who are currently uninsured, more than 1.3 million are eligible for tax credits, which will apply an instant discount to reduce the “sticker price” of coverage offered through the marketplace. The opening of the state marketplace for private health plans represents a big step forward, but North Carolina is still falling short of extending affordable coverage to everyone who needs it. Governor McCrory and leaders in the General Assembly are refusing to expand Medicaid to low-income people who are not now eligible. This means more than 500,000 low-income uninsured North Carolinians will remain without coverage despite the availability of ample federal funds and despite the fact that NC taxpayers have already contributed to that funding.
“Today marks an important day in the implementation process for the ACA,” said Kevin Rogers, Policy & Public Affairs Director for Action NC. “Because the Affordable Care Act means that the new marketplace opens today, uninsured North Carolinians are one step closer to affordable health care they can count on. We still have a lot of work to do to enroll everyone who is eligible and continue improving the law, but by Jan. 1, thousands more people in our state will finally have peace of mind knowing they’ll be able to get the health care they need.”
State officials, navigators and advocates are continuing to move forward with enrollment work even as federal lawmakers wrangle over the government shutdown caused by House Republicans’ refusal to continue funding government unless Senate Democrats agree to a one-year delay of Obamacare. The shutdown is not expected to impede the exchanges opening for business, but the GOP’s proposed delay could raise premiums for consumers by as much as 27 percent , resulting in 14 million  more people remaining uninsured next year because they would be cut off from access to affordability tax credits. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that repealing the Affordable Care Act would increase the federal budget deficit by $24 billion  in fiscal 2014.
Interfering with the scheduled launch of the Obamacare marketplaces would also jeopardize a number of popular consumer protections and provisions of the law that have been implemented over the past two years and benefited hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians while stimulating the state economy. These include:
· 95,000 young adults who have gained coverage under a parent’s health policy until age 26 through an Obamacare provision.
· 192,752 North Carolinians have received an average $87 refund in premiums because of a new rule requiring health insurance companies to spend at least 80 cents of every premium dollar on actual health care rather than profit, paperwork and advertising. All told, this “80/20” rule has returned $9,847,666 to NC consumers this year.
· As of August 2012, more than 1.3 women in North Carolina have access to an array of preventive services without any out-of-pocket expense, including mammograms and cervical cancer screenings. The law also stopped outrageous practice among insurers of charging women more for the same health benefits than men and now requires all health insurance policies to include essential maternity care and birth control benefits.
· As of March 2012, North Carolina received more than $95 million from the ACA Prevention and Public Health Fund to support increased preventive health efforts to lower health care costs long-term and improve the health of North Carolinians.
“Politicians in Washington need to stop grinding the political ax over the new law and help us implement and improve it so that average Americans can get the long overdue help they deserve,” said Alexander McCoy, Executive Director of Action NC. “We’ve already made a lot of progress and we still have a long way to go to make the health care system work for everyone. Today’s opening of the state marketplaces is a huge step forward for the millions that have gone without coverage for too long, and there’s still a lot of work ahead to make sure we educate people about their options and connect them to the medical care they need.”