“But Obamacare is already repealed.”

I almost spit out my coffee. I was on a second date, and I was telling him about a phonebank I was organizing to drive calls into North Carolina congressional offices supporting Obamacare (or the Affordable Care Act). I’d been so focused on ACA defense work for weeks and I was initially shocked that he perceived the law to already be repealed.

Given the immense effort put toward repealing the law by both Congress and the White House this summer, it’s no surprise my date was confused about the status of the ACA. The reality is that very little has actually changed about the law this year. You may still qualify for a discount on health insurance and the prohibition against discriminating toward people with pre-existing conditions is still in place. Even the repeal of the individual mandate included in the Senate tax bill does not take effect until 2019. And given the track record of policy change at the federal level this year, who knows if tax reform will even pass.

The biggest change? A significantly reduced enrollment period. Friday, December 15th is the last day to sign up for health insurance on Healthcare.gov.

Advocates should be screaming from the rooftop that this is the last week to enroll in health insurance. In fact, one of the best ways to guarantee the future and sustainability of the Affordable Care Act is for the marketplace to report high enrollment numbers for 2018. Though it’s unlikely we’ll be able to hit 2017 enrollment numbers, in a best case scenario we might get pretty close.

North Carolinians living with HIV have a new opportunity this year to access health insurance through the marketplace. After lobbying from the North Carolina AIDS Action Network and other advocacy groups, the General Assembly included language in the state budget in 2016 that authorized the state HIV Medication Assistance Program (HMAP) to pay premiums for individuals who purchase their own health insurance. The majority of states have had similar programs in place for years, and we should celebrate that North Carolina is finally catching up. This policy change provides an opportunity for HMAP clients to access a greater array of services than just free HIV medication.

If you make between $12,060 (100% of the federal poverty level) and $36,180 (300% of the federal poverty level) and are living with HIV, you are eligible for the HMAP’s Premium and Copay Assistance Program (PCAP). You can get assistance with insurance enrollment by contacting the North Carolina Navigator Consortium at 855-733-3711 or HIV Medication Assistance Program at 877-466-2232.

Given the year we’ve had, it’s no surprise my date (or anyone else for that matter) might be confused about the status of the Affordable Care Act or open enrollment. It’s on all of us to keep the ACA strong and get as many Americans enrolled in this final week of open enrollment.

For more information:

Out2Enroll: Resources for the LGBTQ community on open enrollment

ACA Insurance Enrollment for People living with HIV in North Carolina 2018: Detailed Resource Guide from Duke Health Justice Clinic on resources for individuals living with HIV

NC HIV Medication Assistance Program/Premium and Copay Assistance Program: The North Carolina HIV Medication Assistance Program (NC HMAP) is the government funded ADAP for the state of North Carolina. Contact toll free at 877-466-2232

For those who live outside of North Carolina, please go to Healthcare.gov directly or contact your state and local agencies.