RALEIGH, September 6, 2016 – The NC Navigator Consortium, a group of 13 health care, legal aid and social service organizations, has been awarded a $2,444,703 federal grant to help North Carolina consumers enroll in health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act. The grant will fund the consortium’s outreach and enrollment activities through September 2017.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced the 2016-2017 navigator grants today. The full list of grantees is available on the Centers’ website.
Legal Aid of North Carolina, a nonprofit civil legal aid organization, is the leader of the consortium and will administer the grant.
The funding will support a corps of about 200 navigators, who are trained to help consumers understand the details of plans available on the Health Insurance Marketplace, determine which plan will best meet their needs, apply for financial assistance, and complete the enrollment process.
Navigators meet with consumers in free, in-person, one-on-one, confidential sessions at convenient locations throughout the state. Strict security and privacy standards are in place to ensure that consumers’ personally identifiable information is protected.
The 2016-2017 open-enrollment period is the fourth since the Health Insurance Marketplace launched in 2013. The period runs from Nov. 1, 2016, to Jan. 31, 2017. Plans must be selected by Dec. 15, 2016, for coverage to begin Jan. 1, 2017. Navigators are available to answer consumers’ questions throughout the year. Consumers can call North Carolina’s toll-free navigator hotline at 1-855-733-3711 or visit gcaconnector.org to schedule an in-person appointment with a navigator.
This year, in addition to providing general enrollment assistance, the Consortium will focus on conducting outreach to hard-to-reach populations, helping consumers re-enroll in coverage, and providing post-enrollment assistance by helping consumers understand, use and troubleshoot their new coverage.
Consumers currently enrolled in a Marketplace plan will be automatically re-enrolled unless they choose a new plan. The NC Navigator Consortium urges consumers to seek in-person assistance before automatically re-enrolling. Prices and options change each year, and a navigator can help consumers feel confident they are in the best plan for their family and are receiving the right financial help.
Consumers without health insurance at the end of the open-enrollment period may be subject to a fine on their 2016 tax return. The fine will be at least $695 per person, or 2.5 percent of the consumer’s income, whichever is greater. Some consumers may be eligible to have the fine waived. Navigators can help consumers apply for waivers.
The latest enrollment numbers from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show that, as of March 31, there were 545,354 North Carolinians enrolled in health insurance plans purchased on the Health Insurance Marketplace. Only California, Florida and Texas have more residents enrolled. Of the roughly half-million enrolled North Carolinians, 499,178 of them – 91.5 percent – are receiving financial assistance. Only five other states have higher rates of enrollees receiving financial assistance.
Members of the consortium are Access East, Capital Care Collaborative, Care Ring, Council on Aging of Buncombe County, Cumberland HealthNet, HealthCare Access, HealthNet Gaston, Legal Aid of North Carolina, Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, MDC, Partnership for Community Care, Pisgah Legal Services and United Way of Greater Greensboro.
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The NC Navigator Consortium is a group of 13 health care, social service, and legal aid organizations that helps North Carolina consumers enroll in affordable health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act. The consortium is led by Legal Aid of North Carolina, a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free civil legal aid to low-income North Carolinians.