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Charlotte woman working to help others find health insurance after receiving $11,000 ER bill

Johanna Parra thought the bill for her treatment would be $500. When an $11,000 bill showed up at her house, she realized the importance of having insurance.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As millions of Americans continue to quit their jobs during the Great Resignation, and many more unemployed due to COVID-19, a Charlotte advocacy group is working to make sure people not only know their options when it comes to health insurance but helping them save money

No one really wants to think about it, and few of us enjoy navigating open enrollment. And let's face it, signing up for health insurance can be a frustrating process. That's where the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy comes in, offering free services to people in transition. 

"It is very overwhelming," Cara Meyer said. "Health insurance is very confusing, not easy to navigate. We try to make it easier on people."

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Meyer is a health insurance navigator at the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy. She says more people than ever before need outside insurance for the first time. 

"People losing jobs, transitioning in the Great Resignation," Meyer explained. "For a lot of individuals, this is the first time not having employer insurance, so hearing their stories and what they've gone through, and letting them know there are affordable options on the marketplace."

The health insurance marketplace was created as part of what most people know as Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. 

"It's very, very confusing," Johanna Parra said. "People get very overwhelmed with how the system works, how to access what they're eligible for, and what they're not."

WCNC Charlotte is always asking "where's the money?" If you need help, reach out to the Defenders team by emailing money@wcnc.com.

Parra, who is also an insurance navigator, decided to do the work after learning the hard way just how important health insurance is. 

"I had to go to the emergency room and I thought it would be expensive," she said. "I was thinking $500, that's what I thought was expensive. Then I received a bill for $11,000 just two hours of an ER visit, and I was like, 'It's really important to have health insurance.'"

Despite millions leaving their jobs every month as part of the Great Resignation, a recent study found more people would walk away if health insurance wasn't an issue. That's why this Charlotte organization is trying to get the word out that they're there to help, free of charge. 

They're especially concerned about college graduates, who may be looking for their first insurance plan on their own. 

"When you turn 26, you get terminated from your parents' health insurance," Meyer said. "It's the first time they have to think about what they're going to do for themselves."

Open enrollment for health insurance through the marketplace runs through Jan. 15. 

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