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By Liora Engel-Smith

Open enrollment to the Affordable Care Act marketplace was extended following website glitches, the Trump administration announced this week.

Enrollment for coverage will now continue until 3 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 18, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in a press release. Obamacare marketplace open enrollment runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15.

The administration extended enrollment out of “an abundance of caution, to accommodate consumers who attempted to enroll in coverage during the final hours of Open Enrollment but who may have experienced issues,” the press release said.

“It was certainly unexpected, but we in North Carolina know to expect the unexpected,” said Willona Stallings, director of NC Get Covered. “We were thinking that Sunday would be the deadline and so we were making preparations for that, but of course we rallied together once the news came down from CMS.”

Across North Carolina, insurance navigators will offer appointments Tuesday for consumers who need help, said Mark Van Arnam, director of the North Carolina Navigator Consortium at Legal Aid of North Carolina.

To sign up for health insurance, visit healthcare.gov.

People seeking assistance can call 855-733-3711, or visit NCNavigator.net to book an appointment with a navigator. Consumers can also call federal assistors at 1-800-318-2596

Van Arnam said that some consumers who tried to sign up for health insurance on Sunday night experienced some delays as traffic to the healthcare.gov site increased. Some people were either unable to sign up for health insurance or got frustrated with the waiting times and gave up, he added.

Because of the short window to enroll, Van Arnam encouraged people who can’t make it to an appointment with a navigator Tuesday to try to sign up on their own, either over the phone or through the healthcare.gov website. He also encouraged people who missed the Dec. 15 deadline to sign up.

Some navigators are using the extended deadline as an opportunity to reach out to consumers who either just missed the deadline or called with questions. Abigail Duemler, health insurance navigator at the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, is one of those navigators.

“It changed the way that I looked at my workday today,” she said. “A couple of people immediately came to mind that I wanted to follow up with who I’ve been in contact with right before the deadline.”

North Carolina Obamacare signups by the numbers:

Number of people who signed up for insurance on the Marketplace for 2019: 501,271
Number of people who then paid their monthly premiums in the first half of 2019: 447,685
Number of people who paid their monthly premiums in 2019 who got a subsidy to help make the coverage affordable: 420,911

Percentage of people in North Carolina who signed up for coverage who got a subsidy: 94%
Percentage of people in the entire US who signed up for coverage who got a subsidy: 87% 

Percentage of people in North Carolina who signed up for coverage, got a subsidy and who also got cost-sharing reductions: 60%
Percentage of people in the entire US who signed up for coverage, got a subsidy and who also got cost-sharing reductions: 52%

Average monthly premium cost on the Marketplace in North Carolina: $726.09
Average monthly premium cost on the Marketplace in North Carolina after subsidy: $48.72

Sources: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, ACAsignups.net

NC Health News reporter and founder Rose Hoban contributed to this report.

Liora Engel-Smith

Liora Engel-Smith joined NC Health News in July 2019 and covers policies, programs and issues that affect rural areas. She has previously worked for the The Keene Sentinel in New Hampshire and the Muscatine...