Feds pick Triangle clinics to enroll residents for subsidized insurance

jmurawski@newsobserver.comJuly 10, 2013 

Three community health centers in the Triangle are among those picked nationwide to help enroll residents for subsidized insurance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Community health centers, which generally serve poor people, will handle much of the outreach and enrollment in North Carolina, which elected not to administer the new health care law, leaving the work to federal contractors.

The three local centers will get more than $800,000 in federal grants to advise thousands of residents about the requirements of the new law. The Affordable Care Act makes insurance coverage mandatory, provides subsidies to offset insurance costs, and carries a fine for not getting insurance.

The local centers are Wake Health Services in Raleigh, Lincoln Community Health Center in Durham, and Piedmont Health Services in Carrboro.

“This investment will give North Carolina neighborhoods and towns one more resource to help people understand their insurance options and enroll in affordable coverage,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.

In all, 32 North Carolina health centers were announced Monday, among 1,159 centers selected nationwide, by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration. They will use the federal grant money to hire 2,900 outreach and eligibility assistance workers to educate the public about the new insurance mandate.

More than 1 million North Carolinians, most of them currently uninsured, are expected to sign up for subsidized insurance in the coming months. Many of those who currently pay out-of-pocket for individual policies are also expected to qualify for subsidies and switch to subsidized insurance.

No date was given for when the centers would start providing services related to the Affordable Care Act, but enrollment begins Oct. 1, and the new policies take effect Jan. 1.

The subsidies, called premium tax credits, will average $5,000 a year for those who fall within certain income levels.

Subsidies will be available to individuals with annual income up to $45,960 a year, and a family of four with household income up to $94,200.

Most already have coverage

However, most state residents will not have to sign up for subsidized insurance because they already have some form of coverage. A combined 7.6 million are covered through employers, Medicare or Medicaid.

Details about subsidized insurance have been proposed, but not yet approved, and are not yet public in North Carolina. When the N.C. Department of Insurance issues approved rates, residents will be able to calculate how much mandatory coverage will cost them after subsidies are factored in.

Three insurers in North Carolina have proposed premiums, deductibles and co-pays to state and federal authorities. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina has filed 26 plans that will be available in all 100 counties of the state if approved by regulators. Two other insurers have applied to offer several dozen plans, but only in sections of the state.

More information about the Affordable Care Act is available at www.HealthCare.gov.

Murawski: 919-829-8932

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