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More than 300,00 in NC without healthcare, in "coverage gap"

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Many North Carolinians could be feeling left out when it comes to healthcare coverage.

"Not everybody is eligible now for Medicaid in the state of North Carolina because North Carolina did not expand, so that leaves some people uninsured unfortunately," said Cynthia Heunemann, an Affordable Care Act eligibility specialist with Med North Health Center.

More than 300,000 people in North Carolina don't qualify for Medicaid and can't afford healthcare through the Affordable Care Act. That's according to a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

This "coverage gap" became evident after 25 states did not pick up the Medicaid expansion with the roll out of the so-called "Obamacare."

The expansion was a key part of the coverage provisions in the 2010 Affordable Care Act, but last year the Supreme Court ruled that the expansion was optional and not mandatory for states.

This is just one problem that's been uncovered as enrollment with the healthcare Marketplace continues.

The other major issue some individuals have encountered is simply not being able to enroll because of problems with

That's where Heunemann comes in. She meets with people face-to-face and walks them through a paper form which is then sent out and returned to the applicant. Once they are considered "eligible," they receive a packet of information about care packages that apply to them.

And while this process is successful, it takes a week or two to complete. So from the time the packet is sent off to the Marketplace headquarters in Kentucky, it may be a week or two before enrollees receive information about what health care packages are available to them.

And some may say paper applications are counterintuitive to the "one-stop shop" expectation of However, it's what "navigators" are having to do to work around the website's problems.

"What we are doing because the website is not working properly is we're doing everything with paper applications. So we're getting all your information on this paper application…and things are getting done and we're really happy with the way it's progressing," Heunemann said.

There is an obvious demand for this kind of process. She says they've seen at least 100 people since the start of Obamacare on October 1. And while some individuals have had success enrolling through, there are many that have not and many that simply want to understand how the Affordable Care Act will work for their families.

"We don't have enough information out there for the general understanding of what's happening. So, they're coming here and they're getting some information; they're learning about what exactly does and what the marketplace is," Heunemann said.

A number of other agencies are also offering assistance. Navigators with Legal Aid of North Carolina are available to residents in Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Duplin, New Hanover, Onslow and Pender counties.

And the New Hanover County Library is working along with Med North. Their service offers assistance every Thursday morning from 9 to 11:30. Individuals can meet with a certified navigator and receive help signing up for healthcare coverage.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has also created a site that individuals can go to and find Affordable Care Act consumer assistance organizations.

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