Not much time left for health insurance

The holiday seasons means making a lot of choices. Which relatives to visit? Which dishes to prepare? Which presents will you purchase to surprise your loved ones? But there is an even more important choice to be made. This Friday, Dec. 15 marks the last day when you can choose the health insurance plan that is best for you or your family; it’s important to enroll now.

We are all just one traffic accident or unexpected bad diagnosis away from really needing health insurance.  And having regular access to a family physician is just as valuable.  While the Republican attacks to undermine the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare” or “ACA”) are relentless, it is still the law of the land.  Don’t let the debate in Washington distract you into letting the opportunity to enroll pass you by. The ACA has helped many of our neighbors obtain coverage — and the word must be spreading, because we have strong enrollment numbers this year despite the political noise.

This year, folks have less time, less help, and less information to study and sign up for the most appropriate plan. President Trump cut the enrollment period in half, slashed 90 percent of public promotion funding that helps inform families about this opportunity, and eliminated 40 percent of the funding for those who help people navigate through the plan selection process.  These troubling changes may mean more families miss Friday’s deadline and risk bankruptcy when surprised by a catastrophic accident or diagnosis.

But amidst this obstructionism, there is some good news.  Like last year, 8 out of 10 Marketplace consumers are expected to qualify for substantial tax credits.  Under the ACA, when premiums increase, your tax credits also go up, likely keeping your premiums in a similar range.  Many can still find plan options with premiums between $50 and $100 a month.

With these barriers, we have to do even more locally to ensure that our neighbors know how to sign up. Three places where you can get free, expert help are Insure Central Texas, San Marcos Public Library, and CommuniCare Health Center in San Marcos, all available to help you research plans, networks, and formularies to figure out what plan works best for your needs. You can find a local enrollment assistance group by contacting my office or at localhelp.healthcare.gov  to help you get your application in and pick the plan that’s right for you.

Texans may sign up through the healthcare.gov website. Even if you have a plan already, you might have more or different options in 2018—it is still worth comparing your choices including that offered by a new insurer in our area that was not available last year. And if you do not have health insurance, open enrollment is the time to get it. If you experience a medical emergency, insurance brings financial security.  Even if you do not have an emergency, it brings peace of mind.  

There is another downside, beside loss of financial security, for failing to exercise your rights: the IRS will reject your tax return if you fail to provide proof of insurance.  The minimum penalty for not having insurance when mandated to do so is $695, and it can be much higher.                                                                                  

Politics in Washington should not keep you from getting covered in Texas. We fought hard—and are continuing to fight hard—to keep the benefits of the Affordable Care Act.  During open enrollment this year, from now until Dec. 15, make one of this year’s most important decisions. Sign up!

Folks can receive free help and assistance in signing up for health care coverage at these locations:

 

San Marcos Public Library

625 E Hopkins Street

San Marcos,  TX  78666

Phone: 512-393-8200

Enrollment help on Mondays, 9-5 (only two more Mondays until Dec. 15 though)

 

CommuniCare Health Center

2810 Dacy Lane, Kyle, TX 78640

Call 210-233-7157 for an appointment.

Doggett represents the 35th Congressional district, which includes San Marcos

 

San Marcos Daily Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666