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More than 1,900 Texans attended a Nov. 16 Be Covered event, which included free health screenings, food giveaways and help finding and enrolling in health coverage.聽

Helping Texans Get Covered

Like millions of Texans, Maria Ocon relies on free screenings to try to stay healthy.

Ocon, 54, lives in the Dallas area and cleans houses for work. She is uninsured and isn鈥檛 eligible for Medicaid, and she struggles to manage her high blood pressure.

She was among more than 1,900 people who recently attended a community event where she enrolled in health coverage and received screenings, including for diabetes and high cholesterol. She was relieved her test results were normal.

鈥淚 haven鈥檛 had a medical checkup in a year,鈥 Ocon said through a Spanish interpreter as she sat in a loud and bustling community center gym. 鈥淭hese events offer health screenings to people who wouldn鈥檛 otherwise get checkups because they鈥檙e so expensive. These health fairs are a good thing, and I鈥檓 very happy to have been screened and to know I鈥檓 healthy.鈥

Before joining the lengthy line for health screenings, Ocon first enrolled in the most affordable insurance coverage she could find 鈥 a high-deductible plan with no monthly premium to pay. Her coverage, which takes effect Jan. 1, includes preventive health screenings and exams at no cost to her even before she reaches the deductible.

鈥淚鈥檓 really happy to be insured,鈥 Ocon said. 鈥淚 selected the plan because I don鈥檛 make enough money to pay monthly premiums,鈥 she said. 鈥淩ight now, what鈥檚 important is that the plan I chose allows me to get medical checkups.鈥

Meeting community needs

In 2019, more than 1 million Texans enrolled in health coverage through the Affordable Care Act. Yet, an estimated 5 million residents 鈥 about 17.7% of the state鈥檚 total population 鈥 still lack health insurance. Texas鈥 uninsured rate is almost twice the national rate.

However, about 60% of the state鈥檚 uninsured residents could enroll in Medicaid or get premium subsidies, said Dr. Bharath Thankavel, a medical director for Health Care Service Corporation who attended the Dallas enrollment and health fair.

The event was part of a聽community-based education campaign called Be Covered, which helps the uninsured and underinsured understand insurance benefits and identify their coverage option during the 2020 open enrollment period. Individuals have until Dec. 15 to enroll in coverage that begins Jan. 1.

Getting and using insurance coverage now will yield long-term benefits for many people, Thankavel says.

鈥淚t鈥檚 really about what鈥檚 going to be the impact on that person鈥檚 life five years from now, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, when they鈥檙e much more healthy,鈥 he says.

Working families remain uninsured

Like Ocon, most people who are uninsured are U.S. citizens in working or low-income families living in Southern or Western states,聽according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In 2017, more than 75% had at least one full-time worker in their family.

People living in states that have not expanded Medicaid to offer more residents health care coverage are most likely to be uninsured.

A separate 2018 Kaiser Family Foundation聽report focused on Texas revealed聽half of uninsured Texans surveyed said they could not afford health coverage or believed it was too expensive. Other reasons cited for lacking coverage included citizenship or residency requirements and the belief that health insurance was unnecessary.

Planning for 'what if鈥

Karen Travit, a senior advocate for HCSC's Texas plan, helps uninsured Texans understand how insurance works and find affordable plans that meet their needs. She also describes the peace of mind coverage brings to her own life.

鈥淲hen someone says they鈥檝e never had insurance before, and I鈥檝e had insurance all my life, I need to help that person get that security of insurance,鈥 says Travit. 鈥淧utting their mind at ease makes me feel good.鈥

Some people know exactly what kind of plan they want. Others need more help in selecting coverage. All marketplace plans have no out-of-pocket costs for health screenings and other preventive care that people like Ocon seek.

鈥淲hat we do is explain what you get with your insurance,鈥 Travit says, such as annual exams and mammograms. 鈥淲e kind of walk them through 鈥榳hat if.鈥 If you have insurance and you go for a wellness exam, if something鈥檚 wrong, they can start working on that. With insurance, it covers if there is a 鈥榳hat if.鈥欌

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