Reality Check: Could health insurance be more affordable than you think?

Wesley Grooms will have health insurance in 2018 for the first time in five years. He will get it for free. (Photo credit: WLOS)

Open enrollment for 2018 health care plans bought through the Affordable Care Act marketplace runs through Dec. 15. The Senate's recently passed tax bill eliminates the requirement for most individuals to have health insurance, but right now the ACA is still the law. That means most must get insurance or pay a penalty.

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates there are still 10.7 million Americans without insurance who are eligible to buy plans in the ACA marketplace. For 54 percent of those people, KFF reports, health insurance premiums would be cheaper than paying the penalty. A local man recently learned this.

Wesley Grooms grew up in Waynesville, spends a lot of time in Asheville, but currently lives in a quiet part of Iredell County.

"I train three or four dogs a day," explained Grooms.

He trains hunting dogs.

"I'm out here in 200 acres, by myself, training these dogs. Anything can happen any time," Grooms said.

Thinking about what could happen for the last five years made him stress.

"I haven't had any insurance since I was out of the newspaper business," said Grooms.

He heard so many things, he didn't think health insurance would be affordable.

"I think most people right now are suffering a lot of anxiety about health care," he said.

Grooms made an appointment with Pisgah Legal Services and learned his options.

"Our goal is to help them understand what are their health care needs and what plans meet their budget," said Jackie Kiger, a managing attorney with Pisgah Legal.

If you've heard about premiums rising, Kiger explains that doesn't necessarily mean you'll pay more.

"It won't necessarily impact their cost per month for that monthly premium, because the tax credits subsidy also adjusts and it rises," said Kiger.

After an hour at Pisgah Legal, Grooms had a health insurance plan.

"I won't have to pay anything based on income," said Grooms.

He says he's paid the penalty at least once for not having health insurance. Now, he'll have health insurance and not have to worry about the penalty.

"I was completely relieved. I haven't felt that good as far as health care goes in five years," said Grooms.

According to a CDC estimate from November, 11 percent of North Carolinians are uninsured. Grooms, a former publisher, now wants to publish a message to the 11 percent.

"The worst mistake they could make right now is not go. That was my mistake, because I just didn't think it was possible. Anybody out there right now that doesn't have insurance, and you're in Buncombe County, go see those people," he said of Pisgah Legal.

In 60 minutes you can get 365 days of coverage. People can make appointments six days a week at Pisgah Legal. You can schedule an appointment online and by calling 1-855-733-3711.

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