It’s Health Insurance Shopping Season

Now that Election Day has passed, one of the most important decisions we can make is about which health-insurance plan to select for ourselves and our families. If you are one of the millions of Texans who lack health insurance, then starting Nov. 15 you will have another chance to sign up for a high-quality, affordable plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace. The Marketplace is part of the Affordable Care Act, and it offers quality health plans and financial assistance. For most people who don’t get insurance through their employer, this is the only chance to sign up in the next 12 months.
Surveys show that too few Texans are aware of the sign-up period for health care that starts this month. Indeed, nine out of 10 uninsured Americans are unaware of the chance to sign up for insurance in the marketplace, and two out of three say they know little or nothing about the Marketplace.

This is understandable, since the Marketplace can seem daunting and overwhelming. Negative political rhetoric about the Affordable Care Act makes it hard for the uninsured to have the facts they need.
Fortunately there is plenty of free help available. Access to local, face-to-face enrollment assistance makes a big difference. People who used in-person help in the past were twice as likely to purchase insurance as those who tried on their own. Additionally, newly insured Texans report high satisfaction rates with the in-person enrollment they received. People looking to buy insurance can find help at or by calling the Marketplace at 800-318-2596.
More than 730,000 Texans signed up for insurance through the Marketplace during the last enrollment period, but more remain uninsured and eligible. Concerns about affordability sometimes deter people who might otherwise sign up, but the facts tell a different story. Eighty-four percent of Texans who purchased insurance in the Marketplace got financial help and on average pay just $72 a month — less than a monthly cable bill. People who didn’t shop for 2014 coverage were much less likely to know about financial assistance. The perception that insurance would be unaffordable was the primary barrier that kept people from actually looking.
In Texas, we need an all-hands-on-deck approach to getting the word out. Tell everyone you know three simple facts:

  • Financial help is available.
  • Free, local, in-person help is available to get signed up.
  • The Marketplace reopens Nov. 15 through Feb. 15.

Texas is starting at a disadvantage. Our state is not an active partner in outreach, and Texas is in 49th place when it comes to funding for in-person assistance signing up for health insurance. Despite these hurdles, Texans have signed up in the Marketplace at rates right about at the national average; 23 percent of eligible Texans signed up for 2014 Marketplace coverage. This speaks volumes about the strong demand for affordable health insurance in Texas. Even more uninsured Texans can get coverage in the upcoming enrollment period — if we work together to make sure they know about it.
This was published earlier in the Austin American-Statesman on November 11th, 2014.

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