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Healthcare enrollment starts Saturday

Saturday marks the beginning of the 2015 open enrollment period for people to get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s Healthcare Marketplace.

People can go to www.healthcare.gov to review and compare insurance plans and sign up. For people who got insurance through the Marketplace during the first enrollment period, their coverage will end Dec. 31 unless they choose to continue it or pick a new plan.

The open enrollment period ends Feb. 15. People must sign up by Dec. 15  if they want their coverage to start Jan. 1.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, commonly called “Obamacare,” people who qualify can receive financial assistance to help pay the cost of insurance.

The Community Care Clinic of Rowan County in Salisbury has people who can help individuals sign up for health insurance.

Initially, the clinic will assist only its own patients, according to Operations Manager Jennifer Sullivan. But after Dec. 31 through the end of the enrollment period, anyone who needs assistance can get free help at the clinic, she said.

Sullivan said the clinic can do pre-screening for people to see if they qualify to get insurance through the Marketplace. The clinic also has someone who can navigate people through the website and an Affordable Care Act counselor.

Sullivan said people with questions can call the clinic at 704-636-4523.

Cabarrus Rowan Community Health Centers, which has an office in China Grove, also has workers who are trained to help people use the website. It is a free service, and people can call 704-792-2260 to make an appointment.

Anabel Doyle, an outreach enrollment specialist, said she and other workers can guide people through the website, show them how to set up an email account and let them know the information they’ll need when signing up.

People without access to a computer or the Internet can go to a branch of the Rowan Public Library system and use a computer for free to access the website, according to Melissa Oleen, with the library.

The libraries also have free Wi-Fi. A library card or photo ID is required to use a computer.

The libraries do not have staff specifically trained to guide people through the website, but Oleen said staff can get people started.

Novant Health will host an “enrollment-educaton event” Jan. 28 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the J.F. Hurley Family YMCA on Jake Alexander Boulevard, according to spokeswoman Robin Baltimore.

North Carolina residents use the federal website because the state decided not to start its own healthcare exchange.

The law requires pretty much everyone to have health insurance. People who don’t have health insurance may have to pay a fee on their tax returns.

In North Carolina, more than 350,000 people used the federal Marketplace to sign up for health care during the first open enrollment period, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, but 581,000 people statewide are eligible to use the Marketplace.

Last year, the enrollment period got off to a rocky start because the website didn’t work.  After months of frustration the site was fixed, and more than 8 million people got insurance through the Marketplace during the first enrollment period.

Contact reporter David Purtell at 704-797-4264.

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