First month of the current ACA enrollment plans calmer than the same stretch last year

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RALEIGH, North Carolina — The first month of the current period for North Carolinians to enroll Affordable Care Act plans has been calmer than the same stretch last year, insurers and advocates say.

New customers have until the end of Monday to sign up for coverage that starts in January. Existing customers must make changes to information in their accounts if they want it reflected in plans starting January. The overall enrollment period ends February 15.

A more knowledgeable customer base and fewer technical problems have contributed to the more moderate pace. Neither the federal government nor the three insurers offering plans in North Carolina have released latest enrollment numbers for the state.

The administration set a target of 9.1 million people enrolled across the country for 2015. That includes 6.7 million current customers, most of whom will be automatically re-enrolled.

Through Dec. 5, some 1.4 million people had used the federal website to select plans, about half of whom were new customers.

Ryan Vulcan, a spokesman for Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina, said the company "has experienced moderate volume of customers enrolling and re-determining for 2015 plans."

Vulcan urged existing customers to make sure their information is current and that they've authorized the federal exchange website to access their tax information.

And while people who take no action will be re-enrolled, he also said that taking the time to select a plan and renew is important to ensure that they get ID cards and customer materials in a timely fashion.

Signups appear to be steady in urban areas but slower in rural places, said Adam Linker, who has served as a health policy analyst for the North Carolina Justice Center.

Overall, the pace has been slower, he said, "not the kind of rush that there was last year."

The lawyer who oversees Legal Aid of North Carolina's enrollment efforts, Jennifer Simmons, said that she has seen good turnout at her group's events. Legal Aid works with a coalition of 13 groups that have 200 certified navigators around the state, ranging from full-time employees to volunteers.

"It seems like consumers are getting good results from the system," she said.

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