Over One Million Americans Have Signed up for ACA Health Insurance During Special Enrollment

A woman pondering about health care insurance.

Are you missing out on new savings for quality, affordable health insurance through the HealthCare.gov marketplace?

Since the special open enrollment period began on Feb. 15, more than one million Americans have gotten covered and there is still time to sign up before the Aug. 15 deadline.

Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, Americans are seeing reduced monthly premiums and lower out-of-pocket costs. For new consumers selecting plans during the time, the average monthly premium, after tax credits, fell from $117 for those enrolling from Feb. 15 – March 31 to $86 for those enrolling from April 1 – 30. The tax credits also helped lower out-of-pocket costs for new consumers. The median deductible for new consumers during the special open enrollment period fell by nearly 90 percent, from $450 prior to April 1 to $50.

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Here in Western North Carolina, Russell and Fran* called local nonprofit Pisgah Legal Services to review their options for free. They found better insurance at a huge savings and switched from a short-term, limited duration insurance plan to comprehensive ACA coverage.

“It’s been life-changing,” says Fran. The couple went from paying $870/month for an expensive plan that covered catastrophic events to now paying $79/month for Gold Plan ACA insurance that covers pre-existing conditions, like the monthly $3,000 shots Fran needs to save her eyesight. “When we got the new insurance, I almost cried,” she says. “We were taking money out of our retirement accounts to pay for insurance before this.”

Jaclyn Kiger, Pisgah Legal Services’ COO, says, “These new savings are truly a game-changer for people who may have found this coverage out of reach in the past.”

She continues, “Here in WNC, we saw double-digit increases in many of our mountain counties during regular open enrollment last year, so we know the need for affordable, quality care is great. Now we are seeing local folks find plans for low or zero monthly premiums thanks to the American Rescue Plan. We also know that even more subsidies will be coming in July for anyone receiving unemployment.”

Kiger says, “Even if you are already enrolled, you can return now to the marketplace to see if you qualify for more savings. Anyone in WNC can make an appointment for free with Pisgah Legal Services, or one of our WNC Enrollment Partners, before the end of the special open enrollment period on Aug. 15.”

Free Help Is Available

Trained assisters are ready to help local people – at no cost – who would like help reviewing the plans and signing up. Make an appointment at pisgahlegal.org/aca or call (828) 210-3404.

Consumers enrolling in a plan on HealthCare.gov (for Spanish-speakers Cuidadodesalud.gov) are guaranteed to receive comprehensive coverage and cannot be denied coverage based on pre-existing conditions. All plans cover essential benefits, including doctor and hospital visits, prescription drugs, mental health treatment, and maternity care. In addition, consumers receive free preventive care services, such as immunizations and health screenings. Testing and treatment of COVID-19 are considered essential health benefits and are covered by all HealthCare.gov plans.

Consumers should avoid insurance plans offered outside of HealthCare.gov that seem too good to be true. “Junk insurance” products and short-term limited duration plans pose huge financial risks to consumers. These products can refuse to pay for care for pre-existing conditions, charge consumers more based on their gender, and impose annual coverage limits. HealthCare.gov is the only website where North Carolina consumers are guaranteed to get comprehensive coverage.

Pisgah Legal and other enrollment partners of WNC participating organizations give local people free, unbiased health insurance information and enrollment assistance in the NC health insurance marketplace. These organizations include: Council on Aging of Buncombe County, Blue Ridge Community Health Services, Legal Aid of North Carolina, Mountain Projects, Inc., Western Carolina Medical Society and Pisgah Legal Services.

Since 1978, nonprofit Pisgah Legal Services has provided free civil legal aid to help people with low incomes seek justice and meet their basic needs including preventing homelessness, stopping domestic violence and securing health care. PLS provides a broad array of free legal services in 11 WNC counties and offers immigration and ACA health insurance assistance in 18 counties. Last year Pisgah Legal served more than 20,000 people across the mountain region.

PLS has offices in Asheville, Burnsville, Brevard, Hendersonville, Highlands/Cashiers, Marshall, Newland and Rutherfordton. Pisgah Legal employs staff attorneys and relies heavily on the pro bono legal services of approximately 300 volunteer attorneys.

Prepared by Pisgah Legal Services.