State and local officials are encouraging people who need health insurance for 2021 to take action before Tuesday’s deadline to enroll or re-enroll for coverage through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace.

A variety of options are available at HealthCare.gov, and a Greenville-based nonprofit is providing a free enrollment event today to help consumers navigate the system to choose suitable plans.

Access East navigators will be outside their offices at 2410 Stantonsburg Road, in Stanton Square shopping center, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to provide socially distanced walkup service, the agency said. The agency also will continue to provide service by appointment at its offices through Tuesday.

“With the pandemic, now more than ever, none of us can afford to take our health care for granted,” said Shantell Cheek, manager of Access East Uninsured Programs.

COVID spreads so easily it has the potential to rapidly take people from healthy to very sick, she said. “The last thing we need is then to find ourselves financially ruined by the cost of our care if we have to be hospitalized long-term because of it.”

Navigators will help consumers find the best, most cost-effective health-insurance plan for them and their families in 2021, and to determine if financial assistance is available to help pay for coverage, Cheek said.

In North Carolina, nine out of 10 people receive help paying for their ACA plans, she said. One-on-one meetings with an Access East Navigator are also still available, either remotely or curbside, by appointment. Call 847-3027 or toll-free 877-755-5438 to schedule one, or visit www.NCNavigator.net.

Navigators are grant-funded, and provide impartial free assistance, receiving no commissions regardless of which insurance plan a consumer might choose, Cheek said.

Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday also encouraged residents to insure themselves. Most people who sign up for coverage get help paying for their premiums and may also be able to get help with copayments and deductibles, he said.

“This pandemic is shining a light on the need for affordable health care for North Carolinians,” Cooper said in a news release. “People who still need health insurance should see what they qualify for and sign up as soon as possible.”

At HealthCare.gov, North Carolinians can compare plans based on price, benefits and other features. Importantly, coverage cannot be denied because of pre-existing or chronic conditions like cancer or diabetes, he said.

Enrollment ends Tuesday. Those who had coverage for 2020 through HealthCare.gov should log in to their Marketplace account as soon as possible to review their options and re-enroll or select a new plan for 2021.

“Sadly, like other states which haven’t expanded Medicaid, North Carolina continues to have one of the highest rates of people without health insurance,” said state Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen. “I strongly encourage all people who don’t have insurance to visit HealthCare.gov to see what quality health insurance coverage options are available before Dec. 15th.”

Most people will qualify for subsidies to help make the coverage more affordable.”

Last year, more than 500,000 North Carolinians signed up for health insurance through the federal Marketplace, the state news release said. However, many more people who could benefit from this coverage did not enroll.

Free assistance also is available through the NC Navigator Consortium website by calling the toll-free NC Navigator Helpline at 1-855-733-3711.

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