If you were affected by Hurricane Harvey, you still have time to purchase a health insurance plan for 2018

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Texas counties eligible for extended enrollment.

The regular open enrollment period for health insurance through the Obamacare Marketplace ended Friday December 15, but Texans who either currently live in a disaster-affected area, or did when Hurricane Harvey hit, will have until December 31, 2017 to enroll in 2018 coverage without a fine.

According to FEMA, the Special Enrollment Period covers Texans in the following counties: Aransas, Austin, Bastrop, Bee, Bexar, Brazoria, Burleson, Caldwell, Calhoun, Chambers, Colorado, Comal, Dallas, DeWitt, Fayette, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Gonzales, Grimes, Guadalupe, Hardin, Harris, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Jim Wells, Karnes, Kleberg, Lavaca, Lee, Liberty, Madison, Matagorda, Milam, Montgomery, Newton, Nueces, Orange, Polk, Refugio, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, San Patricio, Travis, Tarrant, Tyler, Victoria, Washington, Walker, Waller, and Wharton. These include the Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio metro areas.

15.8 million Texans, or 60 percent of the state’s population, live in counties eligible for the hurricane special enrollment period. The attached map shows detail of the affected counties where Texans are  eligible to get an extension to sign up for 2018 coverage.

Applicants only need to attest to living in one of the affected counties currently or at the time of the hurricane and to not being able to complete enrollment due to the hurricane. No special documentation will be required.

“Hurricane Harvey affected millions of Texans, many of whom are still living in temporary housing — often away from their hometown — and may need extra time gathering the information they need to enroll,” said Melissa McChesney of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a member of the Cover Texas Now coalition. “This extension of the sign-up window gives people more time to find the best plan and determine whether they qualify for financial assistance.”

Texas counties eligible for extended enrollment.
Texas counties eligible for extended enrollment.

Texans signing up during the special enrollment period will need to take some extra steps to enroll. The extension is not automatically granted on the healthcare.gov website. Cover Texas Now strongly encourages affected Texans to access local help from trained application assisters for this special process.  The process starts with a visit to healthcare.gov and completing a 2018 application, and then calling the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596 to request the special enrollment period. Applicants will need to explicitly state that they currently live in, or at the time of the hurricane lived in, a county on the FEMA list, and that they are requesting additional time to sign up because of Hurricane Harvey.

Texans in hurricane-affected areas who sign up during the special enrollment period through December 31, 2017 will not have to pay a fine on their taxes in 2018 for missing the original deadline.

Local enrollment assistance is still available across Texas. Enrollment programs are listed on connector.getcoveredamerica.org and localhelp.healthcare.gov. People can also call 2-1-1 in many communities to get connected with local enrollment centers.

For more information, check out our fact sheet here.

Texans seeking assistance with enrollment can contact the following local organizations:

Central Texas: getenrolledatx.com

Corpus Christi: cbcil.org/programs/healthcare-navigator-services

El Paso: unitedwayelpaso.org/enroll-el-paso

Gulf Coast: enrollgulfcoast.com

Rio Grande Valley: mhpsalud.org/programs/our-programs/navigator-program/

San Antonio: enrollsa.com

South Plains, West Texas, and Panhandle: spcaa.info/pan-west-tx-navigation.html 

North Texas: enrollnorthtexas.org

Melissa joined the Center in 2015 and works remotely from Houston. She focuses on policy and practice related to outreach and enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance Marketplace, Medicaid, and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), including access to coverage for immigrants. Melissa has provided policy analysis, training, and troubleshooting guidance to health care enrollment assisters across Texas. Prior to joining the Center she worked as a Senior Policy Analyst for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission on the team that implemented eligibility changes to the Medicaid and CHIP programs required by the ACA. Melissa earned a Master of Science in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin and a Bachelor of Science in Sociology from the University of Central Arkansas.

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