Monday, December 29, 2014

Carolinas HealthCare offers insurance aid

Carolinas HealthCare System is still offering financial aid to help some low-income patients pay insurance premiums for 2015.

As I reported recently, the system has launched a new program to help people whose income falls between 100 percent and 250 percent of the poverty level buy health insurance on the Affordable Care Act marketplace without facing high deductibles.  Dec. 15 was the deadline for getting covered by Jan. 1, but the program continues until open enrollment ends Feb. 15.

"We have helped close to 400 people get insurance at no charge to the insured,"  Pardon Dexter,  one of the private insurance consultants working with CHS on sign-ups,  said last week.  "The government subsidy usually covers about 50 percent to 80 percent of the cost and the Carolinas Healthcare Foundation is picking up the rest. In many situations,  the gross premium is $600 per month;  the government subsidy is around $400 and then the foundation pays the remaining $200."

When the marketplace debuted in 2014,  many low-income families opted for lower-priced policies with higher deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs.  As Dexter noted,  if you're making around $20,000 a year,  paying $200 a month is still  "like Mount Everest."  But the prospect of paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars out of pocket means those families either skip medical care or run up debt they can't pay.  And that means neither the patients nor CHS doctors and hospitals reap the intended benefit of the ACA.

"This is a great community service that the foundation is providing and I can tell you without a doubt that most of the people we are helping would not be able to afford their coverage if they did not get financial assistance from both the federal government and the CHS Foundation,"  Dexter said.

The income range for foundation aid depends on household size. It ranges from $11,760 to $29,175 for an individual,  and from $23,850 to $59,625 for a family of four  (check info for other households here).  People earning up to 400 percent of the poverty level can still get federal subsidies,  even though the foundation won't kick in.

The CHS Registration Center at Morehead Street and Kings Drive takes walk-ins from 8 a.m.  to 5 p.m.  Mondays,  Wednesdays and Fridays and from 10 a.m.  to 7 p.m.  Tuesdays and Thursdays.  For information about premium assistance or to make an appointment, call 704-446-6150. 

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