SPECIAL REPORT: Local Patients Rate Obamacare - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

SPECIAL REPORT: Local Patients Rate Obamacare

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WILMINGTON, NC (WSFX/WECT) - Depending on your political persuasion, you may have strong feelings for or against the Affordable Care Act. By all accounts the rollout was a disaster, and many people who are privately insured have seen their rates skyrocket

But we wanted to know if people in our area were signing up for this public health insurance, and if so, did they like it?

Leland residents Richard and Diane Trubia have struggled with health insurance issues ever since she needed triple bypass surgery eleven years ago. Diane was on Richard's insurance until he retired, and was in her final months of COBRA eligibility when Obamacare went into effect, and they signed up for it.

Now they not only have insurance, but they're also saving money. "My premium for Diane went from $944 a month to $501 a month," Richard told us. "So I'm saving $443 a month for coverage for Diane."

Diane has been pleased with her coverage so far. "I was able to keep the doctor I had," she said. "If you need specialists…they're all covered."

The Trubias make too much money to qualify for a subsidy, but other patients we talked to do get assistance paying their premiums.

Wilmington resident Matthew Bingham doesn't get health insurance with his job as a private contractor, and doesn't make enough money to swing the cost of health insurance. "I went about 7 years without health insurance. Mainly, I just couldn't afford it," he explained.

But thanks to the public exchanges, that's changed. Bingham's premium is $388 a month, but a government subsidy based on his income covers most of it, leaving his monthly bill at just $60. "It's certainly been more affordable for me," he said.

The local insurance provider for the public exchange is Blue Cross Blue Shield, which is widely accepted by health care providers, including Dr. Philip Brown at Wilmington Health Associates.

Dr. Brown says the only significant issue he's seen so far with patients insured through the public exchanges is sticker shock over the out-of-pocket deductibles. "Patients have developed an expectation that everything will be covered by their insurance, and it's really not anymore. It's much more of a personal financial responsibility by virtue of being involved in these new type of exchanges."

There are lots of different options patients can choose from through Blue Cross Blue Shield. Bingham's out-of-pocket expenses are capped at $1400 a year. But Diane Trubia's deductible is $3500.

Dr. Brown says his practice is starting to collect their fees up front from patients, to avoid getting stuck with unpaid bills.  "The bottom line is we can't do it at a cost loss to us," he said.

Brown says the patients can save money through preventative care, which is largely paid for in full by the public insurance.

The Trubias say their new insurance is not perfect, but they're still pleased overall. "It's a start," Richard said. "The congress needs to work together, to tweak it, to help it along, to provide health care for the American people."

According to Protect Your Care NC, 160,161 North Carolinians are now insured through Obamacare.

That's the 5th highest number in the country behind California, Florida, New York and Texas.

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