Five Things That May Surprise You About ACA Plans in Texas
by Alicia Pierce, Jamie Dudensing
This week kicks off the open enrollment period to purchase health insurance through an ACA marketplace or exchange for 2022 coverage. Uninsured Texans may be surprised by the new options and affordable rates available to them. With new plan providers, increased subsidies, and help finding the best plan, this could be the most important open enrollment period in Texas yet.
With that in mind, here are five things about ACA plans in Texas that might surprise you.
1. It probably costs less than you think.
An estimated 1.4 million uninsured Texans qualify for a bronze-level marketplace plan at no cost to them and many more qualify for very low-cost insurance. About half of enrollees during a recent special enrollment period bought plans that cost them around $10 a month.
People who previously shopped for ACA but found the cost too high should look again. As part of the pandemic response, Congress eliminated the “subsidy cliff,” which means many who previously made too much to qualify for a subsidy now can receive subsidies to limit the cost of a benchmark plan to 8.5% of income.
Even without subsidies, plans available in Texas rank below the national average in cost and prices have stabilized and gone down with increased competition. Which brings us to the second fact that might surprise you.
2. Texans have more choice than ever.
Prior to this upcoming coverage year, 86% of Texans already had a choice of 3 or more plans and our state was one of the most competitive markets in the U.S. Now, four new health insurance providers are entering the market and others are expanding to new counties, which means Texans have the opportunity to select from more plans to fit their needs than ever before. Increased competition also helps guarantee long-term affordability as prices are held in check. This gives Texans more opportunity to find the right plan for them. The good news is that all plans provide a basic level of guaranteed coverage. As ACA plans, none of them can deny coverage for preexisting conditions and all of them are required to cover the essential health benefits as defined in federal law.
3. There is more interest than ever.
This year, more than 1.4 million Texans enrolled and paid for insurance through HealthCare.gov, an increase of nearly half a million covered Texans since 2019. Many joined during a special enrollment period earlier this year and there seems to be continued, strong interest in marketplace plans. Additionally, the ACA has cleared major legal and political challenges and more Americans than ever before support the law. This stability and reassurance make plans even more appealing, and more Texans are looking at them as a health coverage option.
4. Texans can get help selecting the right plan for them.
Ten Texas navigator groups received increased funding to help facilitate enrollment and guide Texans through the selection process. This is in addition to other groups and nonprofits encouraging clients to sign up. Also, local brokers may be able to help connect Texans with the plan that will work best for them. Texans don’t have to make the decision of what plan to choose alone.
5. You have longer to sign up, but don’t wait.
This year’s open enrollment period goes all the way to January 15 though you need to enroll by December 15 for coverage that begins on January 1. Consumers can enroll through January 15 for coverage beginning February 1. This extending enrollment period will likely help more Americans enroll, but the extended deadline is not an excuse to wait. Those who want to sign up should start looking now to find the best option and have plenty of time to sign up, even with increased demand.
To enroll, visit HealthCare.gov or CuidadoDeSalud.gov to view 2022 plans and prices. Additionally, consumers can find a local agent or broker in their area by visiting https://localhelp.healthcare.gov.