Pati Urias: Insurance-marketplace enrollment began Nov. 15

With school well under way and autumn now taking hold, there is another important date approaching: In one month, the second open enrollment period through the Health Insurance Marketplace begins. Beginning on Nov. 15, uninsured or under-insured Arizonans are able to enroll in quality, affordable health coverage or renew their plan if they already have one through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

During the first open enrollment period, some eight million Americans nationwide got covered and now have protection and peace of mind for themselves and their families. This coming open enrollment period is the next opportunity to take advantage of the new coverage options through the marketplace and find a plan that fits your needs and budget.

Here are five things every Arizonan needs to know about open enrollment:

•Open enrollment began on Nov. 15. In the first open enrollment period, more than 120,000 Arizonans enrolled in coverage through the marketplace, while tens of thousands more got covered through Medicaid expansion (known in this state as the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System or AHCCCS). Enrollment runs through Feb. 15, 2015. During this time, uninsured Arizonans will be able to enter the Health Insurance Marketplace and select a plan that fits their needs and budget. If you don’t have health insurance or need to renew your plan, Nov. 15 is your chance to find a plan you can afford and that can give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re protected. Additionally, for low-income families, enrollment for Medicaid is open year-round, so income-eligible Arizonans can enroll today.

•77 percent of Arizonans got financial help to make their plan more affordable. For many Arizonans, affordability is a real concern in their health care decision-making. In the past, sky-rocketing health care costs have forced many to go without health insurance because they simply couldn’t afford it. The good news is that financial assistance is available to help you pay for your plan, making it truly affordable. In fact, 77 percent of Arizonans received financial help to bring down the cost of their premiums, and 58 percent are now paying less than $100 per month.

•In-person help is available to help you understand your options and enroll in a plan. The enrollment process can be confusing for many, especially if you’ve gone a long time without coverage. If you fall into that category, you may like the idea of meeting with someone in your community one-on-one and talking about your personal situation and your options in terms you can understand. And you’re not alone. In fact, surveys show that in-person enrollment assistance is critical to helping people enroll and find coverage that fits their needs. There is free, in-person enrollment help available right now. These are people in your community certified to sit down with you, explain your options and help you make the best coverage decision for you and your family. They can also help you renew your plan if you’re already insured through the marketplace and want to keep your coverage, or even review other plans if you’d like to shop around.

•You can start thinking now about what kind of plan fits your needs and budget. Everyone’s needs and financial situations are different, so you can start thinking now about the type of coverage you want and what makes sense for your budget. Every plan is a little different, but all of them will be explained in easy-to-understand language for side-by-side comparison when you enroll. So you can learn more about the types of plans that will work for you today and prepare yourself for taking the next step.

•Every plan covers the essentials, so you know you’ll be protected. Every plan through the marketplace must cover 10 essential benefits, so you know you’ll be getting a quality plan. These benefits include: doctor’s visits, preventive care, medications, emergency room visits, maternity care and more. This means that everyone who enrolls will be able to get the medical care that they need to stay healthy – including free preventive care. And no plan can deny you coverage based on a preexisting condition. For the first time, there are options for people who live with conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or asthma that may have prevented them from finding affordable coverage in the past.

Nov. 15 marked a historic opportunity for Americans who are currently living without health insurance. With these five simple facts, you can prepare for open enrollment to begin and take action to protect yourself and your family with quality, affordable health insurance. And don’t forget that if you don’t enroll by Feb. 15, you might face a fine – so be sure to act right away.

You can learn more about the Health Insurance Marketplace, your coverage options, and how you can help your friends and family get covered by visiting our website. While there, you can even get an idea of how much you’ll pay with financial assistance by using our Get Covered Calculator to get a ballpark estimate.

Pati Urias

Enroll America

Arizona Editor’s note: Enroll America is a nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)3 organization focused on one goal: maximizing the number of Americans who are enrolled in and retain health coverage, according to www.enrollamerica.org. The U.S. government site on the health-care insurance marketplace is www.healthcare.gov.

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