Jane Harrison

COUNSELOR — Jane Harrison is one of Mountain Projects’ Health Insurance Marketplace Certified Application Counselors who offer free help in the signup process.

In a surprise move, the federal government has created an extra open enrollment period for health insurance in 2021, and counselors at Waynesville’s Mountain Projects are jumping into action to help residents of North Carolina’s seven westernmost counties take advantage.

Mountain Projects’ application counselors are certified through the Health Insurance Marketplace and are located in every western county. Their services are free. The new open enrollment period, triggered by the COVID-19 crisis, starts on Feb. 15 and ends on May 15.

As job losses continue to mount and with millions of people having lost their job-based health insurance, the new administration will reopen HealthCare.gov to give people who need health insurance an extra opportunity to get covered.

“More than 535,803 North Carolinians enrolled in a health insurance plan during open enrollment, but obviously the need remains urgent,” said Jan Plummer, certified Application Counselor Program Coordinator. “This is a new, much-needed chance for people to sign up, and anyone who needs insurance and has questions should call us at Mountain Projects. We’ll answer your questions and help you sign up.”

Health insurance is more affordable than many people think. Nine out of 10 North Carolina customers used financial subsidies through the marketplace to lower their monthly health insurance premiums last year. The average premium statewide was $61, and customers in Western North Carolina paid below $50 per month on average.

“Many people can find good deals on HealthCare.gov and receive financial assistance to help lower their monthly health insurance costs,” said Plummer. “We help guide our clients through that process.”

Consumers enrolling in a plan on HealthCare.gov are guaranteed to receive comprehensive coverage, with no pre-existing condition exclusions or markups.

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 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,” said Plummer. “Consumers buying junk plans will be exposed to serious risks.”

To learn more about access to affordable healthcare and to speak with Certified Application Counselors in seven western counties of NC, please call Mountain Projects, 828-452-1447 or visit our website, www.getcoveredwnc.com/get-in-touch to find your local contact.

Certified Application Counselors are healthcare advocates who provide in-person, impartial information about all health insurance options and other healthcare resources through Mountain Projects.

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