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Your yearly check-up on healthcare security: open enrollment season

Guest Column
Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Open Enrollment is the short period during which you can enroll in health insurance, choose your plan, or switch to a better plan. Don’t wait. Open Enrollment is underway now, but you have only until Sunday, December 15 to sign up. Make the first thing on your holiday shopping list buying yourself and your loved ones health security. 

Nearly a decade ago, the House committee in Washington on which I serve approved the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Since then, so many have done so much to deny Central Texas families access to affordable health insurance and to strip away protections. Repeated assaults on our healthcare law may have left access bruised.

But nothing about what is happening in Washington—none of the tweets or other political static—can stop your family from taking full advantage now of this health insurance opportunity.

Meanwhile, I am fighting back on those legislative efforts to drag our healthcare backward. We cannot go back to an era of discrimination. Before the ACA, we were faced with fine-print plans that take away rights and block, deny, or limit people with pre-existing conditions from care.

The Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land. It continues to represent the best path for many to obtain the security of health insurance and access to a family physician—security from the daily possibility of a serious accident or illness. Though the Trump Administration has done everything in the book to deny health insurance access, you still have the right to choose the health insurance that is best for you and your family. But it is up to you to exercise that right.

With the commitment of local resources through Ascension and the St. David’s Foundation, Foundation Communities offers free, objective assistance in matching your family’s healthcare needs with alternative insurance policies. You can access information by calling 211 and by going by their north office at 5900 Airport across from ACC Highland Mall or south on 3600 W. Stassney Lane. You can also get aid in enrolling over the phone at 737-717-4000.

Likewise, CommuniCare is providing help with enrollment for Hays County residents at 512-268-8900. You can find assistance online at localhelp.healthcare.gov.

Foundation Communities helps you to research plans, networks, and formularies to make it easier to figure out what plan best meets your needs. Last year, 90% of those who came in for help qualified for federal tax credits. They found comprehensive insurance with premiums averaging $77 a month. Even if you have a plan already, you may have better options in 2020; it is still worth comparing your choices.

Selecting a plan is not just about finding the cheapest option. Take time to compare network directories and make sure your doctors and hospital are covered by your insurance. Too many people are being hit by big surprise medical bills because their doctor wasn’t included in their insurance network. I have authored legislation to resolve this problem and shield consumers. In the meantime, you can take preventative steps, like ensuring your plan includes your preferred doctors and has affordable coverage for the care you need. 

Recently, junk, short-term plans have been promoted as an alternative to comprehensive coverage from the virtual insurance marketplace. These misleading plans usually do not provide essential coverage like maternity care, mental healthcare or substance abuse treatment, or prescription drugs. They can also deny coverage or charge higher prices to people with pre-existing conditions like diabetes, cancer, or even survivors and victims of domestic abuse. Junk insurance is more widely available now, but it’s just that: junk. A bad choice for consumers. 

Don’t let the politics in Washington keep you from getting covered in Texas. This month, your family can say “no” to those who would take away your rights and “yes” to protection.

Safeguard your family from an auto accident injury this afternoon or an unexpected diagnosis next week. I continue working to improve the Affordable Care Act, to make it both more affordable and more accessible. But, for most Texans, it already offers significant protection. So, during open enrollment through December 15, make full use of it.

San Marcos Record

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P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666