COMMENTARY: Pushing healthcare coverage in Texas - The Monitor: Opinion

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COMMENTARY: Pushing healthcare coverage in Texas

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Posted: Sunday, March 16, 2014 2:00 am

If you or someone you care about does not have health care, it’s not too late to sign up for quality affordable coverage but you’ll want to act soon. The deadline to get insurance is March 31. After that, you’ll have to wait until November to sign up.

Many of the people I’ve met have told me they were surprised at just how affordable Marketplace insurance can be.

Here in McAllen, a family of four earning $50,000 per year can get covered for as little as $117 per month. A 27-year-old earning $25,000 can get covered for as little as $99 per month.

Security and peace of mind are just a click or call away. You may even find that you’re eligible for assistance to lower the cost of your premiums. An estimated 8 in 10 Latinos (more than 8 million) could qualify for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or lower costs on premiums through the Marketplace.

You can sign up 24 hours a day, seven days a week at (which is working smoothly) or by calling (800) 318-2596. You can even get in-person help in your own community: Just visit and punch in your zip code. If you are a Spanish speaker, you can access our Spanish language website at and you can get in-person help in Spanish, too.

Join the 4 million Americans who have already signed up for a plan and the millions more who’ve learned they’re eligible for Medicaid.

One of these people lives here in Texas. On a recent visit to the Lone Star State, I met Mark Sullivan, 31, a software developer. Though he was eager to start his own business, the thought of fending for himself without his employer-based health coverage made him hesitate to sign up.

But then he researched his options on Imagine his excitement when he found a good plan for less than $80 a month.

Mark signed up to get covered, and now he’s focused on growing his own business. “It’s hard to express how much that means to me,” he told me.

Before the Affordable Care Act was passed by Congress, hardworking families in McAllen had few real options. Even if you worked hard and took responsibility, you could still have the rug pulled out from under you if you or someone in your family got sick, had an accident or experienced a hardship. One might pay their premiums dutifully every month, only to have their insurer refuse to pay for care when they needed it most because they had hit an annual or lifetime cap in coverage expenses.

But today, here in McAllen it truly is a new day. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, there is choice and competition. In fact, you can now choose from 24 qualified health plans. Before the Affordable Care Act, many consumers had few, if any, real choices.

Unlike the old system, once you enroll, nobody can take your coverage away from you just because you get sick. And your insurance company can’t charge you more just because you are a woman; being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition!

What’s more, by law, insurance companies now have to cover health services like doctor’s visits, prescription drugs, ambulatory care and hospital stays. Preventive care, like cancer and cholesterol screenings, are covered with no additional money out of your pocket.

But if you don’t enroll by March 31, you won’t get this security that comes with a Marketplace plan — and you can’t enroll again until November.

So don’t delay, sign up today!

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has held this post since 2009.This column was written specially for The Monitor.

This post has been edited to remove an error of fact.

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