COLUMBUS, Ga. — Navigators who were expecting a packed house instead looked out into an empty waiting room Wednesday during the first official day of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) open enrollment period.
ACA Navigators help those seeking insurance coverage work their way through the Healthcare.Gov application process. However, changes to the program’s marketplace seems to have people hesitant to sign up.
The most notable change this year is that the entire open enrollment period has been cut in half. Those who wish to apply only have until December 15 to do it.
Many insurance providers have also pulled their coverage from the marketplace. This on top of expansions set in motion by President Donald Trump’s recent executive order are driving up premiums in the plans that are still available.
Rising costs seem to be a major motivator for many to skip signing up for health insurance this year. Diana Montenegro is an ACA Navigator at Valley Healthcare System in Columbus. She reminds everyone health insurance coverage is still the law and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
“Come in and apply anyway, because everybody needs health insurance,” Montenegro says. “Everybody gets sick for some reason or another and if they don’t have that coverage to go to the doctor or to go have surgery or go to the hospital, either way you’re gonna be paying out of pocket.”
Justin Salary is a local man who says he couldn’t afford to leave his health to chance. Justin suffers from pulmonary embolism, a debilitating condition that causes painful blood clots in his legs and lungs.
“A lot of times my legs are so sore I can barely even get out of bed,” he says.
Justin was one of the only applicants who came to Valley Healthcare System for the first day of ACA open enrollment. He says he lost health insurance coverage through his parents when he turned 26 this year. His condition also doesn’t allow him to work or afford his costly heart medications and multiple blood thinners.
“I really can’t work, because I can’t sit down or stand up too long, so that’s been a really hard issue in my life,” Justin says.
Justin and his father met with Montenegro to get her help working through his open enrollment application.
If you need help signing up for Affordable Care Act coverage, updating your current information, or simply have questions you want answered, Insure Georgia is an organization that has set up several local events to bring ACA navigators to you:
- November 1, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.: Chattahoochee Family Connection
- November 2, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.: Beautiful Butterfly Resource Center
- November 18, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.: Josh Gibson Center
- November 4, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.: Columbus Public Library
- December 5, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.: Pastoral Institute
- December 6, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.: Tree of Life Healthcare
- December 15, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.: Columbus Public Library
- December 7, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.: Randolph County Library
- December 13, 9 a.m.- 1 p.m.: Schley County Library
- December 7, 2 p.m.-5:30 p.m.: Parks Memorial Library
- November 29, 1 p.m.-5 p.m.: Talbot County Library
- December 13, 2 p.m.-6 p.m.: Butler Public Library
- December 13, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.: Quitman County Library