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Chapel Hill library hosts affordable care sign-ups

The open-enrollment period started Saturday and closes Feb. 15.

Kate Torrey, one of several certified application counselors assisting with the sign-up, said people looking to attend should call the library in advance so staff can tell them what to bring when they come.

“They can make an appointment or they can walk in,” she said. “There’s a whole list of things people need to bring and then they’ll sit down with a counselor and work through it.”

Last year’s open-enrollment period was three months longer than this year’s, Torrey said.

“The federal website was really a mess for the first six weeks that it was open for enrollment,” she said. “And so things really didn’t get done last year in a significant way for both the Chapel Hill Public Library and across the country.”

The website caused problems with the sign-up process during the last enrollment period, but Torrey said she’s sure that that won’t be the case this time around.

“I feel confident that it’s going to go a lot more smoothly this year in terms of the technology interface,” Torrey said.

She said that North Carolina will also be adding a new carrier, United Healthcare, to the list of available carriers — which includes both Blue Cross Blue Shield and Coventry.

“There are new plans that consumers weren’t offered last year,” Torrey said. “So everyone is going to want to go online and do it again.”

Stacy Shelp, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Health Department, said that there are several other places in Orange County providing sign-up help besides the public library.

“Both the health department locations in Hillsborough and Chapel Hill are helping with the Affordable Care Act,” she said. “There are eight different certified counselors at each location to help with enrollment.”

Shelp said that 46 percent of the 10,729 eligible Orange County residents enrolled during the 2013-14 period — one of the highest percentages in the state.

She said the enrollment period is not just for people who don’t have insurance at all.

“It’s also a time when you can go back in and make any modifications or adjustment from the previous year,” Shelp said.

The library is partnering with several organizations for the event, including UNC Health Care, Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, UNC’s Student Health Action Coalition and the League of Women Voters of Orange-Durham-Chatham.

Janet Hoy, vice president of the League of Women Voters of Orange-Durham-Chatham, said the organization holds three to four sessions a week in the library’s computer lab.

“We help people understand the plans that are offered and the re-enrollment process,” she said. “As well as looking at potential offers for re-enrollment and helping new people with the process.”

Hoy said her organization wasn’t originally planning on doing anything for the 2014-15 enrollment period, but seeing the numbers of people who are uninsured changed their minds.

“There’s so many people out there who are in their 20s who don’t have insurance,” she said. “There are still a lot of people that we need to educate on health care.”

Hoy said that they use the library’s downstairs computer lab, which has 25 computers. This lets them easily manage two or three people at a time and still maintain the privacy of those who are signing up for health care.

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“Chapel Hill Public Library has been incredibly great,” she said. “It’s been a terrific partnership with them.”