Letter | Confused about health insurance? Free help is available

Is financial assistance still available? How much does it cost? Are pre-existing conditions covered? Isn’t the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare dead? Who can help me enroll?

If you are like most Arizonans, you likely have asked one of these or a multitude of other questions we have been asked when speaking with consumers about health insurance.

We understand that confusion exists. Every day it seems like proposed health care changes are making news. However, when it comes to the enrollment period for the Health Insurance Marketplace, it is important to note the facts and ignore rumors of what could or may happen in the future.

The open enrollment period is much shorter this year. This year, today is the first day to enroll and Dec. 15 is the last day. This open enrollment period is the only time to go to the Health Insurance Marketplace to purchase health insurance, apply for financial assistance or switch your current plan.

After December 15, only people with specific life changes can apply. With less time than previous years, we encourage consumers to enroll in health insurance as soon as possible. Similar to tax assistance, you are likely to experience long wait-times or may not be able to get an appointment if you wait until the deadline approaches.

New plans and prices are available each year and plans may be more affordable than you think. Eight in 10 shoppers in the Health Insurance Marketplace can qualify for a plan for $100 a month or less. The fact remains that eight out of 10 Arizonans buying through the Health Insurance Marketplace receive financial assistance. When monthly premiums increase, financial assistance in the Health Insurance Marketplace has also increased.

In addition, thousands of Arizonans are eligible for no-cost coverage through AHCCCS (Medicaid), yet remain uninsured. You don’t know what you may be eligible for or what your costs will be until you take the time to apply.

No-cost help to apply for coverage is available from certified counselors by calling 800-377-3536 (English and Spanish) or by scheduling an appointment at www.coveraz.org/connector. Cover Arizona, a coalition spearheaded by the Vitalyst Health Foundation and comprised of over 900 community groups, statewide organizations and individuals, provides health insurance education and enrollment opportunities throughout Arizona. Local nonprofits have experienced and certified health insurance enrollment assisters who are focused on helping you navigate the confusion.

Enrollment assistance is available for the Health Insurance Marketplace, KidsCare and AHCCCS.

Still confused? Please call 800-377-3536 and let Cover Arizona help.

Diane E. Brown is the Executive Director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. Allen Gjersvig is the Director of Navigator and Enrollment Services for the Arizona Alliance for Community Health Centers. Both Diane and Allen are on the Steering Committee for Cover Arizona.