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Deadline nearing to sign up for health care coverage; State health underwriters group says Texans need to get covered by the end of the month

March 27th, 2014

obamacare

By Darren Dunn

(Seguin) -- The deadline to sign up for Affordable Care Act is next week, and a statewide association of health insurance experts is encouraging people to get signed up before the March 31 deadline.

The Texas Association of Health Underwriters (TAHU) issued a statement this week to encourage people to sign up before its too late. TAHU President Mark Bellman says this deadline is very real, and people don't need to wait.

"Well we wanted to make sure that Texans are informed about the new world in health insurance. In the past, they can purchase insurance anytime during the year, but in the new world, the open enrollment ends on March 31st and unless you have a qualifying event. That means a change in your spousal coverage, change in your job, change in a significant place of residence, anything significant like a divorce or something --unless you have that type of an event, you can not purchase insurance after March 31st," said Bellman.

If miss that deadline, Bellman says you could find yourself owing thousands of dollars in medical bills due to an accident or illness. He says that's why the TAHU says people need to take advantage of this open enrollment period now.

"So what this means folks could be out there thinking that 'I'll just get the insurance later', and it's too late. They can have an apappendectomy. It can cost them $100,000. They can get cancer. It can be a million dollars. So in the past we also had the risk pool in the state of Texas, that was the safety net for all of these situations, if you couldn't get insurance because of your pre-existing conditions. That too is being eliminated by March 31st. So it's critical, that Texans want insurance, they're thinking about insurance, this is the time," said Bellman.

The Affordable Care Act is better known to most as Obamacare. It's been a political hot button issue since it was signed into law by the president. Bellman says people need to set aside the politics, and look at the practical side of this issue. He says if you need health insurance, you need to get signed up now.

"Politics is not going to pay your medical bills. So we're here to deal with a practical matter. Folks needing insurnace, making sure that they understand the situation, they understand what's available and make the right decision for them. And what we're here to do as an association, we have agents in Seguin, down the road from you, who can help individuals make a decision at no cost to them, because the commissions are already built into the premiums. You're going to get professional advice, not just about what's in the public exchange, but what's also available outside of the exchange in the private world. All the different options in front of you. So yes, maybe perhaps the politics is crowded...quite frankly politics isn't going to pay your medical bill when that happens," said Bellman.

Bellman says their organization is there to assit people with the sign up process. He says they've tried to make it easier for people to find professionals that can help them choose the right plan.

"I highly recommend that every Texan seeks professonal advice, because if you go to the website, the website (healthcare.gov) is only going to show you one slice of the pie that's available to you and that's the government options on the exchange. There's a whole world outside of that, and not only can a professional give you advice on stuff inside the exchange -- there are a lot of new options that may not show up on that website. Like is your doctor on the plan, (and) is your drug covered? There are other options that are outside that could make a better fit for that individual and the best thing about it is it will not cost them a penny more. Whether they use a professional or not, because the insurance companys have built in the payment to the premiums rate. So if you don't use a professional, you're leaving money on the table," said Bellman.

Bellman says staying health is vital, because an injury as common as a a broken arm can cost thousands of dollars in medical bills. Treating serious illness, such as cancer, can easily top $100,000. Beyond potential cost savings, Bellman says another advantage is that ACA-compliant coverage now covers preexisting health conditions.

Bellman says to find a professional benefit adviser, visit www.tahu.org.

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