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Lost health insurance during COVID-19 Pandemic?

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the loss of jobs, income and health insurance coverage for millions. Some life changes, such as losing health insurance through your job, may qualify consumers for Special Enrollments Periods through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance marketplace at www.healthcare.gov, but the time to report that life change and sign up is limited — only 60 days. 

Pisgah Legal Services is offering free assistance to help people in Western North Carolina review their options and get signed up for health insurance during these uncertain times.

Shannon Cornelius, Pisgah Legal’s Health Justice Program Director, says, “Outside the yearly ACA Open Enrollment Period, there are times when you can sign up for health insurance. You may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period if you’ve had certain life events, including: losing health coverage through your job; loss of Medicaid or Medicare; moving; getting married; having a baby; aging out of your parents’ health insurance plan; securing permanent legal status or citizenship; or being released from incarceration.”

She continues, “Pisgah Legal Services, and our nonprofit partners, offer free, unbiased guidance with trained assisters so that folks in Western North Carolina can get the support they need to understand their options for health insurance and maintain it throughout the year, and especially now during the COVID-19 outbreak when so many people have been impacted.”

Appointments can be made online at www.pisgahlegal.org or by calling 828.210.3404. For the safety of consumers, staff and volunteers, all appointments are currently being conducted by phone.

Cornelius says, “Many people qualify for financial assistance to make their plans affordable on the ACA Marketplace but they just need a little help calculating their household income. We can help them sort out the details to get coverage before the 60-day window period closes.”

Financial assistance is still available to those who qualify. Last year, more than 90 percent of North Carolinians who enrolled for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace received financial assistance to make their plans more affordable. Subsidies are based on household taxable income and may be difficult for consumers to calculate themselves. Pisgah Legal can help with this process and can factor in unemployment benefits if needed. Pisgah Legal can also answer questions about other coverage, such as COBRA, and help people apply for Medicaid and CHIP.

Pisgah Legal Services and other Enrollment Partners of WNC participating organizations give local residents free, unbiased health insurance information and enrollment assistance in the NC Health Insurance Marketplace. These organizations include: Council on Aging of Buncombe County, Legal Aid of North Carolina, Mountain Projects, Inc., Western Carolina Medical Society, and Pisgah Legal Services.

The ACA- also known as Obamacare — is the law that ensures access to quality, affordable health insurance on the Health Insurance Marketplace. With these plans, consumers are protected and:

  • Can’t be denied coverage for a pre-existing health condition and can’t be dropped for getting sick;
  • Insurers can’t charge higher premiums to women; and
  • Insurers can’t sell substandard plans that don’t pay for essential health care benefits.

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. Pisgah Legal Services provides a broad array of free, civil legal services in 11 WNC counties, and offers health and immigration law services in 18 counties. Last year PLS served more than 18,000 people across the mountain region.

PLS has offices in Asheville, Burnsville, Brevard, Hendersonville, Marshall, and Rutherfordton and has added staff this year to serve people in Macon and Jackson counties. Pisgah Legal has 32 attorneys on staff and relies heavily on the pro bono legal services of more than 300 volunteer attorneys.

Pisgah Legal Services continues to serve clients during the COVID-19 outbreak. For more information, visit www.pisgahlegal.org.

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