10Listens: A look at the 2017 healthcare marketplace

Nov. 1, 2016: Open enrollment for 2017 health insurance through the federal marketplace runs through the end of January. In tonight's 10Listens, we hear from one East Tennessee man who is losing his insurance because the carrier is opting out of Obamacare

KNOXVILLE - Open enrollment for 2017 health insurance started Tuesday through the federal marketplace.

It runs through the end of January.

For many East Tennesseans, this year will bring a big change after Blue Cross Blue Shield opted out of the Obamacare exchange, and as medical costs rise, so do premiums.

A total of 112,000 Tennesseans were on Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, including 31,000 from Knoxville.

"Right now I'm faced with getting a new insurance company, and from what I can tell right now I only have one choice,” said Edwin Hunter.

Being self-employed adds a new layer to the challenge for Hunter. He’s been operating sandwich shop EB’s Eats & Treats in Halls for the last 28 years.

"Through the years you could shop for your own insurance, but with Obamacare you are very limited when you can shop, and who you can shop with,” said Hunter.

After he joined Obamacare, Hunter saw his payments rise.

"My premiums went from $340 a month to $565 a month,” said Hunter.

Including a deductible he says was entirely too high.

"I'm paying right now $565 for coverage that I can't even use because I don't meet my $7,500 deductible each year,” said Hunter. “That's almost $600 a month that I'm not going to say you throw away, but that you don't get any use out of.”

We took his frustrations to a local application counselor, Naan Bediako, with Cherokee Health Systems.

"The major downside to open enrollment this year is we only have one carrier, in the Knoxville area,” said Bediako.

With Blue Cross Blue Shield out, Knoxville residents only have one other option, Humana.

“Even with Humana they don't have a lot of plans out there, you are very limited to about two different kinds,” she said.

Bediako says some people may find relief with advanced premium tax credits, which will go up.

"Which is credit that has been awarded to them, to help them pay for their premium,” said Bediako.

However, these credits depend on your income and where you live and whether you smoke.

“The more money you make, the less tax credit you have, the more out of pocket you have to pay,” said Bediako. "If it’s a low income earning county, your premiums seem to be a lot lower than a higher income zip code.”

While customers have an extremely limited pool of options this year, she says the prices should not be too high.

“For the person buying the insurance they are not going to see a great hike, in prices, somebody who was paying $10 may be paying $15,” said Bediako.

For people like Hunter, unfortunately, there is not much to do.

"You are really pigeonholed in, you don't have a choice, it’s either this company with this rate, or this company with this rate,” said Hunter. “It's almost to me, un-American.”

Remember, if you can afford health insurance but choose not to buy it, you’ll be looking at a penalty fee.

The best advice experts have for people struggling with making these decisions is to talk with an application counselor to help you guide through the form and pick the best option.

LOCAL OPEN ENROLLMENT EVENTS: (from knoxvilltn.gov)

Anyone wishing to enroll will need these documents: 

• Social Security numbers (or document numbers for legal immigrants)
• Employer and income information for every household member to be covered (numbers from pay stubs or W-2 forms - Wage and Tax Statements, modified adjusted gross income)
• Policy numbers for any current health insurance plans covering household members
• A completed Employer Coverage Tool for every job-based plan for which a member of the household is eligible. Click here to download Employer Coverage Tool [PDF].

Saturday, November 5 - Kickoff event at the Haslam Family Club University/ Boys & Girls Club
407 Caswell Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37917
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

**Thursday, November 10 - Mt Calvary Church
1807 Dandridge Ave, Knoxville, TN 37915
4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Saturday, November 12 - King Family Library
408 High St, Sevierville, TN 37862
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Saturday, November 19 - Cherokee Health Systems, Center City Clinic
2018 Western Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37921
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Tuesday, November 22 - South Knoxville Community Center
522 Maryville Pike, Knoxville, TN 37920
3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Saturday, December 3 - Cherokee Health Systems, Center City Clinic
2018 Western Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37921
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

**Wednesday, December 7 - Jefferson City Public Library
108 City Center Dr, Jefferson City, TN 37760
2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

**Thursday, December 8  - Mt Calvary Church
1807 Dandridge Ave, Knoxville, TN 37915
4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  
Saturday, December 10 - King Family Library
408 High St, Sevierville, TN 37862
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Tuesday, December 13 - South Knoxville Community Center
522 Maryville Pike, Knoxville, TN 37920
3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Saturday, December 17 - Cherokee Health Systems, Center City Clinic
2018 Western Avenue , Knoxville, TN 37921
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Saturday, January 7 - Cherokee Health Systems, Center City Clinic
2018 Western Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37921
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

**Thursday, January 12 - Mt Calvary Church
1807 Dandridge Ave, Knoxville, TN 37915
4 p.m. to 7 p.m. 
 
Saturday, January 14 - King Family Library
408 High St, Sevierville, TN 37862
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Tuesday, January 17 - South Knoxville Community Center
522 Maryville Pike, Knoxville, TN 37920
3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Saturday, January 21 - Cherokee Health Systems, Center City Clinic
2018 Western Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37921
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Saturday, January 28 - Cherokee Health Systems, Center City Clinic
2018 Western Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37921
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

**Tuesday, January 31 - Mt Calvary Church
1807 Dandridge Ave, Knoxville, TN 37915
3 p.m. to 8 p.m.

(© 2016 WBIR)


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