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    What Do Texans Need To Know About Open Enrollment

    Posted by Kevin Hall on Oct 26, 2023 3:32:25 PM

    Paul, a dedicated Texan and father of two, had always prided himself on navigating life’s challenges with ease. But this year, faced with the daunting maze of the ACA Exchange Open Enrollment Period, he felt overwhelmed. The health insurance terms and conditions seemed like a foreign language. Was he picking the right plan for his family? The weight of the decision weighed heavily on him.

    Open Enrollment is that pivotal time when Texans, just like Paul, looking for individual health insurance can select a plan for the upcoming year. Instead of diving deep into the choices, many Texans impulsively pick the first plan they come across, mainly because the entire process is baffling and almost impossible to understand. But it's essential to understand that Open Enrollment offers a golden opportunity to make changes to your ACA Exchange health coverage tailored to your unique circumstances.

    Before we give you the five factors to focus on with your health insurance exchange, you need to make sure that you understand the playing field of choosing a healthcare plan just like Paul. So let's take a moment to make sense of the health insurance marketplace before the enrollment deadline passes you by for another year.

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    Who is Eligible for Open Enrollment?

    Understanding the eligibility for coverage for the open enrollment period is fairly straightforward. This initial enrollment period is primarily designed for those without insurance through their employer or those looking for individual plans for them and their family. The purpose of open enrollment is to provide everyone an equal chance to find the best health insurance coverage to meet their needs. Recognizing the importance of open enrollment ensures Texans, like Paul, can access the care they need and deserve.

    When Does Open Enrollment Typically Occur? 

    For Texans, the open enrollment time frame is fixed. It begins on November 1st of each year and concludes on January 15 of the following year. Health plans that are put in place between November 1st and December 15th have an effective date of January 1st. Any health insurance policies with an enrollment date after December 15th will not be in effect until February 1st. There are special enrollment periods outside of this window during the year, but are subject to the special enrollment period rules.

    What Do Texans Need To Know About Open Enrollment

    Benefits of Open Enrollment

    Beyond just providing options, Open Enrollment schedules allow for predictably reliable options for Texans to obtain health plans. The rhythm of this process can work well for not only the health insurance companies, but also for the physicians and patients who rely on these health insurers to provide the financial stability that comes from them providing health care coverage to Texans. Let's take a look at what some of those benefits are.

    Allowing ACA Health Insurance Companies To Plan Properly

    It's not just about the consumers. ACA health insurance companies greatly benefit from a well-executed open enrollment period. Proper planning is pivotal as it aids insurers in determining their capacity and setting fair rates for all. A smooth enrollment process ensures more competitive pricing, broad access to insurance options, and fosters stable markets. In the last five years of plan years for individual coverage in Texas, the options and rates have been fairly stable for Texas families.

    Finding Health Insurance Plans That Cover Pre-Existing Conditions

    Paul's wife had a chronic condition, making this positive particularly relevant. Under the Affordable Care Act, health care plans are mandated to cover pre-existing conditions unlike private health plans. This means Texans can access necessary medical treatments and comprehensive coverage without the looming fear of high bills from being uninsured. Being able to access preventive services through the essential health benefits provisions of the ACA can also help keep those same conditions, or new ones, in check before they become a much bigger problem.

    Types of Health Insurance Available During Open Enrollment Period

    Not every individual health insurance plan participates in open enrollment. While the Affordable Care Act mandates an open enrollment period each year which serves as the primary catalyst for "open enrollment" fever this time of year, the reality is that there are many types of health insurance plans that are available during this push. Let's take a quick look at the different types of plans that Paul considered when looking for his family.

    ACA Exchange Plans

    A myriad of health insurance plans await during the open enrollment period on the ACA Exchange. From high deductible health plans to more comprehensive ones, each comes with its distinct set of coverage and benefits. These plans are typically from the big name insurance companies that you expect to be offering family plans for Texans.

    Private Health Plans

    Private health plans offer a range of coverage options at varying costs. They stand apart from ACA exchange plans and can sometimes provide additional benefits, such as broader provider networks, prescription drug coverage, and telehealth options. The down side of these plans are that they are underwritten and can exclude pre-existing conditions. And given their flexibility, you must verify that any coverage you may need is covered by the plan.

    Catastrophic Health Plans

    Catastrophic Health Plans are an intriguing option. With three primary components - Critical Illness Coverage, Accident Coverage, and an Indemnity Plan - they don't mandate massive deductibles. These plans will not be involved in your day to day health expenses, including drug plans, but can allow you to save money and keep flexibility of primary care options while providing the financial protection from major health events.

    Short-Term Health Insurance Plans

    Short-term health plans serve a very specific niche. These plans will have a time horizon that they are allowed to be in place as they are used as a stop gap between long term policies. Hence their name. They offer flexibility in terms of coverage duration which is great for Texas families. And with generally lower monthly premiums they can be appealing. However, their coverage limitations need to be considered before you purchase.

    Five Key Items To Know During Open Enrollment

    With all of that knowledge, most Texans ask us what matters the most when comparing health plans during open enrollment. We helped Paul with our five essential things every Texan should know for Open Enrollment to make an educated decision between your current plan and alternatives.

    1. Ensuring access to preferred doctors or hospitals is really important. Check the doctor networks to make sure that your favorite healthcare providers are "in-network" or that you have the flexibility to go where you want. 
    2. Planning for necessary prescriptions, whether paying cash or via prescription drug plan. Generics can often be cheaper outside of insurance. Don't neglect this fact when calculating total costs.
    3. Comprehending post-deductible medical expenses. Just because it's met, doesn't mean you're done paying bills. You have to evaluate maximum out of pocket amounts.
    4. Grasping premium subsidies and income implications. Federal premium subsidies can lower your monthly costs substantially. This can make a loss in another factor not as big of a deal.
    5. Evaluating if a non-ACA Exchange Plan better fits one's needs. Many people aren't even aware of these other options. Many of them have a significantly better network of doctors which can make all the difference in the world.

    Speak to Insurance For Texans

    At Insurance For Texans, we prioritize you. Our independent health insurance agents are here to educate and guide Texans on the best insurance options tailored for them. We work for you, and not a big insurance company. As a result, we make sure that you understand all of your options to make sure that your family has access to the health insurance providers that take care of Texans best.

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    Topics: health insurance, ACA, catastrophic health coverage, ACA Alternatives, private health insurance, open enrollment