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NC healthcare providers prepare for Affordable Care Act open enrollment

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TWC News: NC healthcare providers prepare for Affordable Care Act open enrollment
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CHARLOTTE -- New estimates show people in North Carolina who shop for health insurance coverage on the federally run, online marketplace could pay more and have fewer choices than the national average.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said premiums for a mid-range plan sold on the health exchange will be $379/month on average. The average cost for that same plan across 48 states will be $328 when the new health insurance markets start.

With less than a week from the start of open enrollment for Obamacare, there continues to be a lot of confusion.

"I would say that one in five Americans are not clear, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, on what the healthcare insurance marketplace is," said Stephanie Perun, with Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina.

To help consumers navigate their options, the insurance provider is opening seven stores across North Carolina. Families can meet with navigators to decide whether to take advantage of the online exchange or keep their current healthcare plans.

"They can get their questions answered on what the exchange is, they can get their questions answered on what a subsidy is and how that can be applied to help them pay for their health insurance," said Perun.

The Employers Association says they're still fielding calls from their member companies, unsure of what option to take.

"I think some of the smaller ones are considering just getting out of the healthcare business, because the exchange could be more beneficial to their employees," said Cathy Graham, director of Benefit Services.

That option has larger companies worried as well.

“They're concerned that the exchanges will deplete their plan, because if there is less expensive coverage available and they opt out of their plan, they can go to the exchange,” she said.

Care providers are also getting ready. While the plans don't take effect until January 1, Arlene Ferebee with Novant Health says their facilities across the state are already gearing up for a surge in new patients.

"We've hired more physicians and opened up clinics,” said Ferebee. “We want to be sure that we have the resources to be able to accommodate patients as they enter the healthcare system once they get access to insurance.”

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