Open Enrollment at HealthCare.gov (the Health Insurance Marketplace) is open until January 15, 2022. In order to have coverage that begins on January 1st, consumers must enroll by December 15th.
Professional assistance is available for free to help people sign up for health insurance.
Navigators and other enrollment assisters are individuals at community-based organizations that help guide consumers in the Marketplace; assist with applications for the Marketplace, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); and enroll consumers in a health plan. They are required to be unbiased and their services are free to consumers.
Health insurance can be daunting, but assisters play a vital role. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 6 out of 10 consumers found enrollment in marketplace insurance difficult. Even after enrolling, 27% of consumers returned to their assister for post-enrollment help, such as understanding how to use their new coverage. In-person enrollment assistance and post-enrollment support by navigators can greatly reduce the complexity in applying for and using health coverage. Navigators are tasked with serving underserved communities, so their enrollment assistance and post-enrollment support can also help reduce health inequities.
Navigators provide critical services by providing impartial information in a manner that is culturally and linguistically appropriate. Navigators must provide free written translations or oral interpretation services to consumers in their preferred language, if necessary, or upon request.
Assisters are also required to provide information and services in a manner that is accessible for consumers with disabilities. To provide adequate assistance to consumers, assisters may supply accommodations to physical barriers, auxiliary aids and services, printed materials in braille or large font, and other resources.
At a time when insurance is more affordable, there is now also increased funding for enrollment assistance. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced ten Texas organizations were awarded $13 million in federal navigator grant funding for the 2022 plan year. This substantially increased enrollment assister capacity in Texas compared with recent years. In 2019, Texas had a mere $1.5 million available statewide.
Texas Navigator groups include:
- Bexar County Health Collaborative (Atascosa, Bexar, DeWitt, Karnes, and Wilson counties)
- Boat People SOS – Houston (Brazoria, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Matagorda, and Montgomery counties)
- CentroMed (Atascosa, Bandera, Bexar, Comal, Frio, Gillespie, Gonzales, Guadalupe, Kendall, Kerr, Medina, and Wilson counties)
- Changes Happens! (59 counties encompassing the Gulf Coast region, Southeast, and Northeast portions of Texas)
- Coastal Bend Center for Independent Living (Aransas, Bee, Brooks, Duval, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg, Live Oak, Nueces, Refugio, and San Patricio counties)
- Foundation Communities (Bastrop, Bell, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwelll, Fayette, Gillespie, Hays, Llano, McLennan, Travis, and WIlliamson counties)
- Light and Salt Association (26 counties encompassing Houston, Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW), and Austin metro areas)
- MHP Salud (67 counties along the Texas-Mexico border and the greater southern Texas region)
- South Plains Community Action Association (64-county area in the Texas panhandle, south plains, Permian Basin, and far west Texas)
- United Way of Metropolitan Dallas (Collin, Cooke, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Fannin, Grayson, Henderson, Hunt, Kaufman, Navarro, Rockwall, and Tarrant counties)
Finding Enrollment Assistance
Community organizations are standing by to offer free, expert help with the sign-up process across Texas:
- HealthCare.Gov has a tool to find local help from certified enrollment assisters at local community-based organizations who can help you sign up for coverage through HealthCare.Gov, Medicaid, and CHIP.
- The Get Covered Connector lets you search for enrollment assistance locations statewide by zip code. Bonus: in the Houston, San Antonio, Austin, and Corpus Christi areas, you can also book an appointment for assistance.
Enrollment assistance organizations serving major metro areas include:
- Austin: Organizations providing assistance include Foundation Communities, CommUnityCare, Light and Salt Association, Lonestar Circle of Care, and more. For more information and options, call 211 or (512) 381-4520, or visit Enrolled ATX.
- Houston: Organizations providing assistance include Change Happens, Legacy Community Health, Light and Salt Association, Boat People SOS-Houston, HOPE Clinic, El Centro de Corazón, VN Teamwork, Inc., Spring Branch Health Center, Bee Busy Wellness Center, and more.
- Dallas/Fort Worth: Organizations providing assistance include United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, Community Council of Greater Dallas, Little Shepherd, Mission East Dallas, Los Barrios Unidos Clinic, and more. For more information on these and others options, visit Dallas County’s ACA webpage; scroll to the bottom for local enrollment assistance.
- San Antonio: Organizations providing assistance include CentroMed, Bexar County Health Collaborative, MHP Salud, and CommuniCare. Visit Enroll SAor call (210) 977-7997 for more information.
- El Paso: For local assistance, call MHP Salud at (956) 246-4125; Amistad at (915) 298-7307; Centro San Vicente at (915) 858-2932; Project Vida at (915) 533-7057, ext. 340 or 381; or Centro De Salud Familiar La Fe at (915) 534-7979. Enrollment assistance is also available from the University Medical Center of El Paso.