Open Enrollment for Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance is now open and runs through December 15th. Although it faces an unpredictable fate in the courts, the ACA is still the law. If an individual or family needs ACA health insurance for 2021, we urge them to sign up during Open Enrollment.
This year’s Open Enrollment may be the most challenging yet, as millions across the U.S. are in need of health care after losing their job-related health insurance due to COVID-19.
To kickoff Open Enrollment, we spoke with one of our dedicated Certified Application Counselors, Nelson Reyes
Are you a native of Asheville, and if not, what brought you to Asheville?
That is a really interesting question, but no, I am not a native of Asheville, but I have been here for over 18 years. Whenever I’m asked that question, I say that Asheville picked me.
I was a professional modern dancer for the National Company in Havana Cuba, and the Asheville Contemporary Dance Company visited Havana and saw me dance. The choreographer asked me to join them and I said yes! I came here through an artistic exchange and danced with them for about four years, then I created my own dance company for two years.
What position did you hold before coming to Pisgah Legal full time?
For eleven years, I worked full time at Western North Carolina Community Health Services. (also known as Minnie Jones Community Health Center) I started there as an outreach worker, then became a medical interpreter while still doing outreach and then moved into social work and patient assistance.
For the past five years, I also worked at Pisgah Legal Services part-time with the Health Justice program during ACA Open Enrollment, so I had two jobs at the same time. I would do a full day at Minnie Jones, then come to
Pisgah Legal for evening appointments. It was a long day, but I would see patients who didn’t have health insurance, and so I wanted to help my community get the healthcare they needed. Then a few weeks ago, I came to Pisgah Legal Services full-time as a Certified Application Counselor.
You are so dedicated to making sure everyone has access to healthcare. Why is it important that everyone has access to health justice and who is typically left out?
Having access to healthcare is just as important as having a home and food and being safe. But the health system can be confusing because there are so many details. That’s why I love being a part of Pisgah Legal because they provide peace of mind where people can feel safe and secure to get the assistance they need.
The most vulnerable people are those who have language barriers, people living in isolated areas and immigrants who are afraid of the public charge penalty and possibly losing their pathway to citizenship. I tell them, come to Pisgah Legal or call us and we will help you.
What do you want people to know about the ACA?
There are so many things I would like to share about the ACA. First, it’s the best way to access affordable health insurance with no restrictions on pre-existing conditions, gender, or age. It’s like a great global circle. So, when you are young, you may not need insurance as much as your grandfather needs it, but in the circle when you become a grandfather, hopefully there are 20 year-olds that can help you. It’s a huge community that takes care of each other. The most important thing I want to say is that there are so many options in the ACA. So please come see us at www.pisgahlegal.org/aca and we are here to help you.
We are so happy that you are joining Pisgah Legal full-time. What inspires you to work here?
I wouldn’t be here today without Pisgah Legal Services. Pisgah Legal was involved with providing advice to the Asheville Dance Company to get the artistic exchange that first brought me here. Then years later, I worked with a Pisgah Legal attorney to get my legal permanent residence. I know personally how important Pisgah Legal is in people’s lives!
Pisgah Legal is a huge family, and everyone is so friendly and knowledgeable. It’s an amazing place to work. I’m so happy to be a part of this organization.
If you need assistance in learning about your healthcare options, make an appointment with Nelson, or any of our Certified Application Counselors by calling 828-210-3404 or making an appointment at www.pisgahlegal.org/aca. Pisgah Legal is following all safety protocols and holding all appointments over the phone.