Some Augustans take advantage of last official day to sign up for healthcare insurance

MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF Insure Georgia ACA navigator Kate Malone, right, helps Blair Lipscomb sign up for health insurance at the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library on Friday.

Blair Lipscomb on Friday went from one coverage under the Affordable Care Act to another.

 

Lipscomb was one of a handful of people who showed up at the Augusta Library to get help enrolling in health insurance on what was to be the official last day of open enrollment for coverage next year. But thanks to Hurricane Irma, people in Georgia will get more time to pick a plan, although it will be a little more complicated to enroll.

In September, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that people who live in or have moved from counties affected by Irma and Hurricanes Harvey and Maria would get more time to enroll in Medicare and in the federal exchanges through what is called a Special Enrollment Period. Then-HHS Secretary Tom Price had declared a public health emergency in Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which allows certain rules to be waived or modified.

But it won’t be as easy to do as it was on Friday, when people could sign up through the healthcare.gov web site, as people in 39 states were doing. Georgia residents can still sign up for coverage through Dec. 31 but it is not as easy as using the Web site, said Fred Ammons, CEO of Community Health Works, which is the parent company of Insure Georgia that is helping people enroll. Enrollment will have to be done through the Call Center after Friday but Insure Georgia can help, Ammons said.

“Our navigators can help people preselect plans and we’ll still ultimately have to conference-call them with the Marketplace for the Marketplace to do the data entry of (the enrollment),” he said. “It will take longer and it is more complicated but if folks miss the deadline today, there are some options. They should contact our office and we’ll be glad to talk to them about what their options are.”

Lipscomb was not waiting on that. She was one of the first ones to show up at the enrollment event to get help from navigator Kate Malone.

“I outgrew my parents’ insurance,” Lipscomb said. She was able to take advantage of a key change under the act that allowed young people to stay on their parents’ insurance until they were 26. Now 27 and a student at Augusta Technical College, Lipscomb heeded her mother’s advice to go down and get enrolled.

“I just want to be covered,” she said. About an hour later, Lipscomb walked out with affordable health insurance premium of $8.83 a month for a Silver-level plan.

“That was awesome,” she said.

 

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com

Health insurance

Insure Georgia will still be able to help people find options for health insurance through Dec. 31 due to the Special Enrollment Period for people in Georgia to sign up for coverage through the Affordable Care Act. For more information, call (866) 988-8246. You can enroll the federal Health Insurance Marketplace by calling 1-800-318-2596.

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