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By Rose Hoban

Almost 139,000 North Carolinians have signed up for 2018 coverage in the state insurance exchange, federal officials announced Wednesday.

The announcement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services gave the first state-by-state breakdown of sign-ups over three weeks of enrollment in the 39 states that use the federal healthcare.gov exchanges.

Nationally, about 800,000 consumers enrolled last week in those states, bringing the total to 2.3 million.

Find help enrolling for ACA insurance:

The NC Navigator Consortium website has a list of enrollment events if you scroll down.

You can call 1-855-733-3711 to get an appointment.

Or use the Connector App to find someone near you to help you sign up.

The 138,932 enrolling here placed North Carolina as third-highest among the states listed, behind Florida, which has nearly a half million enrollees, and Texas with more than a quarter million.

While weekly sign-ups are strong, at this rate, North Carolina is not matching pace with prior years. Last year, halfway through an enrollment period that was twice as long, the state had 238,414 enrollments and eventually about 549,000 North Carolinians signed up for coverage.

Mark Van Arnam, a spokesman for the NC Navigator Consortium, said Wednesday that he’s “encouraged” by the CMS report. He said he believes North Carolina could come close to equaling the 2017 enrollment total, despite a shorter sign-up period.

“We’re averaging 7,700 enrollments per day, which is about 150 percent of last year’s enrollment figures,” Van Arnam said. “We anticipate a surge at the end of the open enrollment period,’’ which ends Dec. 15.

This year’s enrollment period is half the length of last year’s sign-up time, something that was not dampening Van Arnam’s enthusiasm.

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“We’re seeing people who are finding plans for $30, $40, $50 per month, and we’re super encouraged by that,” he said. “But since North Carolina did not expand Medicaid, there are some low-income folks who are not eligible for subsidies. We’re doing our best to connect them to local resources so they can get some sort of coverage.”

Many consumers who qualify for discounts or subsidies may find that prices are good, he added. Even as premiums in the state have spiked, that increase has led to higher subsidies, as required under the Affordable Care Act.

The news is not all good. On the opposite end of the spectrum, many people who earn close to, or more than, 400 percent of the federal poverty level ($98,400 for a family of four) are finding their premiums higher, but they don’t qualify for fewer or no subsidies to help with the cost.

Last year, 92 percent of North Carolinians signing up for insurance on the marketplace qualified for a subsidy.

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Rose Hoban

Rose Hoban is the founder and editor of NC Health News, as well as being the state government reporter. Hoban has been a registered nurse since 1992, but transitioned to journalism after earning degrees...