While it may be hard to imagine, soon we will be welcoming in a new year. As the clocks strikes midnight, many Arizonans will be able to celebrate having health insurance for the first time.
Certainly, the Health Insurance Marketplace has glitches. However, it is important to know that improvements have and are being made and there is still time to have health coverage starting in January - but you need to finish the enrollment process by December 23, 2013.
Whether you have yet to start the application process or just need to pick and pay for a plan; whether you qualify for AHCCCS (Arizona's Medicaid program) or qualify for financial assistance through the Health Insurance Marketplace; it is important to know your options and your rights.
What are my options?
In addition to visiting the Healthcare.gov website, consumers have three other methods to enroll through the Health Insurance Marketplace:
1. By phone. Call 1-800-318-2596 to apply for a health insurance plan and enroll over the phone.
2. In person. Visit a trained counselor in your community to compare your options and apply in person. Find help in your area at http://www.211arizona.org or by calling 211.
3. By mail. Complete a paper application and mail it in. You can download the paper application form and instructions from HealthCare.gov.
Young adults can find additional health insurance options, such as staying on your parents plan, in the Arizona PIRG Education Fund's guide, So You Need Health Insurance. Now What?
What are my rights?
Whether you are just beginning the search for health insurance or already have coverage, you should be aware of your rights and the rules in which insurance companies must abide.
For plans beginning January 1, 2014, health insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. You can receive emergency care when and where you need it without huge out-of-network costs. In addition, you cannot be dropped when an unexpected condition or accident makes your care expensive.
Under the law, you have the right to free preventive care to keep you healthy and your health care costs down and to choose your own primary care doctor or pediatrician and to see an OB/GYN without a referral.
You also have the right to an appeal if coverage for needed care is denied by your insurer and the right to a rebate if your insurer spends less than 80 percent of premium dollars on care.
With the right facts and resources, Arizonans can make informed health insurance choices. And through the new Health Insurance Marketplace, consumers have the right to information about the cost of insurance and the quality of insurance benefits so that you can choose the plan that works best for you.
Diane E. Brown is the executive director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. The Arizona PIRG Education Fund conducts research and education on issues in the public interest. More information can be found at www.arizonapirgedfund.org