“Hey, Doc”: Where Can I Get Help Signing Up in the Marketplace?

Sept. 23, 2013 

This week, TMA’s “Hey, Doc” education campaign answers Texans’ questions about where they can get help signing up for coverage in the new health insurance marketplace, when they can create an account, and how they can get ready to sign up.

Please feel free to use the content in its entirety or as a basis for a story. We have physician experts standing by to answer your questions. In fact, every Wednesday, TMA will post a new video featuring TMA Board of Trustees Chair Carlos “ ‘Hey Doc’ ” Cardenas, MD, answering questions about the Affordable Care Act. Check out our first installment. You can find the videos and a lot more information at HeyDoc.texmed.org.

TMA’s second week of “Hey, Doc” education programming

Where can I get help signing up?
Besides using the official marketplace website Healthcare.gov to apply for health insurance, the federal government has created ways for you to get live and in-person help.

You can call a toll-free number, (800) 318-2596, and talk to a trained customer service representative and get help in 150 languages. Online chats are also available.

Another way to get assistance is through community health centers. Texas has more than 60 centers where you can get help with information and enrollment. Here is a list: www.hrsa.gov/about/news/2013tables/outreachandenrollment/tx.html.

You can also search for a “navigator” in your community by calling (800) 318-2596 or by going to Healthcare.gov. Navigators are organizations like a local United Way branch that the federal government has funded and trained to help you. The navigator will guide you through the process of selecting a health plan that’s right for you, figuring out if you qualify for tax credits or state programs, and preparing your electronic and paper applications. Here’s a list: www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Programs-and-Initiatives/Health-Insurance-Marketplaces/Downloads/navigator-list-8-15-2013.pdf  

Be Covered Texas also hosts local events to help families learn about the marketplace plans and programs and enroll right then and there.

Both the federal government and Be Covered Texas have Facebook, email, and texting campaigns that you can sign up for to receive updates on the marketplace and reminders of important deadlines.

When can I create an account at the marketplace?
Even though you can’t sign up for insurance through the marketplace until Oct. 1, you can go online now to Healthcare.gov to create the account you will need to enroll. You’ll start by going through some basic steps like providing your name, address, and email address to create a username and password, and entering information like whether you are eligible for insurance through your employer. You can always call (800) 318-2596 with questions, too.

How can I get ready to sign up?
You will have some decisions to make and important information to gather to sign up for health insurance coverage when the marketplace opens on Oct. 1. But there are a few things you can do now to get ready so it’s not so overwhelming.

  • Learn about different types of health coverage so you know what kind of plan fits you or your family.
  • Make a list of questions you may have before it’s time to choose a plan, such as whether you can keep your current doctor.
  • Make sure you understand how coverage works, including things like premiums, deductibles, and copayments. This will help you determine what you have to pay and when. Healthcare.gov and BeCoveredTexas.org have helpful glossaries you can use to decipher these and other insurance terms.
  • Gather information about your household income, for example, pay stubs, W-2 forms, or tax returns. You will need this information to determine what kind of plan you may want, and whether you qualify for tax credits or public assistance. When you enroll, you will also have to provide information on any insurance you currently have, such as policy numbers and employer coverage.
  • Set your budget.
  • Ask if your employer plans to offer health insurance coverage in 2014. If not, you may have to find insurance through the marketplace or other sources.

You can find this information and more at MeAndMyDoctor.com and HeyDoc.texmed.org.

Below is TMA’s “Hey, Doc” content schedule through Oct. 30, 2013. We have content in the works through January 2014.

Where to Get Help, When to Sign Up
Sept. 16: What exactly is this marketplace, and why should I care?
Where can I get more answers?
Where can I find out more about the marketplace?

Sept. 25: Where can I get help signing up?
When can I create an account at the marketplace?
How can I get ready to sign up?

Sept. 30: When can I sign up?
How do I sign up?

Who Can/Must enroll? Who Doesn’t Have to? What Are the Penalties?
Oct. 7: Who can enroll?

Oct. 14: Who must enroll?
If I have insurance through my work or my spouse or my parents, do I have to give that up and buy insurance through the marketplace?
Does the individual mandate mean I have to buy health insurance through the marketplace?

All About the Plans
Oct. 21: Who can sell me this insurance?
How do I pick a plan?
How many plans can I pick from?
Can I keep the plan I have now?

Oct. 28: What is covered by this insurance?

TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 47,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 112 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans.


Contact: Pam Udall
phone:(512) 370-1382
cell: (512) 413-6807

Pam Udall  

Contact: Brent Annear
phone: (512) 370-1381
cell: (512) 656-7320

Brent Annear  

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Check out MeAndMyDoctor.com for interesting and timely news on health care issues and policy.