Demand to Get Covered is High: Here’s What You Can Do

March 25, 2014

Throughout Texas right now, the health insurance procrastinators are noticing what last-minute holiday shoppers often do: the lines can be long when demand is high before a deadline.

RGV-enrollment-line

Credit: Rio Grande Guardian

March 31 is the last day to enroll in the Health Insurance Marketplace, and that means Texans who don’t act might have to wait until November to begin benefiting from the financial security and access to health care that’s available for millions. And instead of getting health care tax credits next year, they risk having to pay a fine. Many people are voting with their feet, so we’re seeing:

  • hundreds line up at events like this one yesterday in Del Rio to get themselves in enrolled;
  • thousands flooding enrollment sites and events in the Rio Grande Valley; and
  • a huge uptick of demand for enrollment events in places like Houston, Austin, and the Metroplex.

So what to do? Well, there are several ways consumers can help expedite the enrollment process. One tip is to be sure to have an email address before you arrive. Many people don’t have one, but setting up a free email account can be done from anywhere with internet access, such as at a local library, at sites such as Yahoo and Google.

Other “homework” to try to tackle before you arrive is to set up an account at HealthCare.gov, an essential first step before selecting a health plan. Some of the information asked for during enrollment is proof of citizenship or legal residency for all members of the family enrolling (e.g., social security numbers for adults and children, immigration documents, passports, and driver’s license); proof of address (e.g., residential lease or utility bill); and proof of household income (e.g., W2, paycheck stub, or tax return). It’s a good idea to bring these items with you to the enrollment site as well, so documentation is on hand when you meet with an in-person expert to get your questions answered.

Finally, if you want to get a sense for some of the plans you’ll have to choose from during enrollment, you can use the “window shopping” feature at HealthCare.gov. For example, the tool shows that a 35 year old in Cameron County earning $20,000/year has 46 health plans to choose from, with out-of-pocket costs as low as $28/month. The tool also says if this person is pregnant, she may qualify for Medicaid coverage with no out-of-pocket costs.

Once you’ve tried these things out, you’re ready to enroll and select a plan. This can be done online, by phone, or at an enrollment site or event. Ready, set . . . enroll!

 

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