Central Texans have fewer options, less time to sign up for health insurance plans during open enrollment, Nov. 1-Dec. 15

Open enrollment starts Nov. 1 and ends Dec. 15, about half the time Texans previously had to sign up for new health plans.

Open enrollment starts Nov. 1 and ends Dec. 15, about half the time Texans previously had to sign up for new health plans.

Image description
Open enrollment
Image description
Image description
Open enrollment
UPDATED: Oct. 24, 10:57 a.m.

As open enrollment approaches, Central Texas residents in the individual health marketplace will have fewer health insurance options and less time to enroll this year.

Open enrollment—the time of year when individuals can make changes to their current health insurance plan or enroll for the first time—begins Nov. 1 and ends Dec. 15.

With many changes coming to the marketplace this year—including health insurance options, prices and length of time to enroll—health care professionals such as Dr. Norman Chenven—founding CEO of Austin Regional Clinic—suggest patients take the time to compare their options before enrollment begins.

“The cost of health care has been a real challenge for everyone,” Chenven said. “We see health plans and employers trying different mechanisms to manage the cost, but that has resulted in some complex situations. It’s hard [for people] to make good decisions when you’re sick and need help.”

With the 45-day window, Texans have about half the time to pick a new health insurance plan than they did last year, when open enrollment lasted three months.

In addition to having less time, individuals in Central Texas have fewer options from which to choose this year, said Stacey Aikman, director of administrative operations and marketing for Vista360health, an Austin-based health insurance company.

“Last year the majority of health [insurance plan] options for individuals left the market in Central Texas,” Aikman said.

Both Aetna Life Insurance Co. and Cigna Health and Life Insurance Co. recently made a full withdrawal from the individual market in Texas and will not have any offerings in Central Texas for 2018, according to the Texas Department of Insurance.

The TDI will not have a complete list of 2018 carriers until the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services finalizes its list of approved plans, the department said. But residents can expect plans from at least Vista360health, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association of Texas and Sendero Health Plans Inc.

The remaining providers in Central Texas have submitted requests for 2018 rate hikes.

Vista360health requested a 13 percent rate increase, Blue Cross Blue Shield applied for a 24 percent increase and Sendero’s IdealCare requested a 25 percent increase, according to www.ratereview.healthcare.gov.

Chenven said ARC advises patients to check if their current primary care provider accepts the insurance they are considering and understand the benefits structure of a plan, such as which plans offer high premiums versus high copays.

Aikman said it is critical to check if the plan is qualified under the Affordable Care Act because uninsured residents or those using an unapproved plan could be penalized. This year penalties taken from income tax refunds were either 2.5 percent of income or $695 per adult and $347.50 per child, up to a maximum of $2,085. In 2018, the flat and maximum rates will adjust for inflation.

Editor's note: This post has been updated for clarity.


A sign directs voters inside Ridgetop Elementary School in North Central Austin. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
11.8% of voters in Travis County have voted early since June 29, exceeding 2018 primary numbers

More than 97,000 Travis County residents have voted in person or by mail. The turnout far surpassed the combined early and Election Day totals in the 2018 primary run-off election.

A photo of the potential Tesla property
Travis County updates Tesla incentive package, pushing for $1 billion-plus investment from the company

Poised for a possible July 13 vote, Travis County has released a refined incentives structure proposal with electric carmaker Tesla.

Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath announced in a June 30 State Board of Education meeting that students will be taking the STAAR in the 2020-21 school year. (Courtesy Pixabay)
Education organizations call for STAAR requirements to be waived another year

Gov. Greg Abbott waived the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, testing requirements in March of earlier this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

With a clinical background in internal, pulmonary and critical care medicine, Corry has been with BCM for 20 years. He now focuses primarily on inflammatory lung diseases, such as asthma and smoking-related chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. (Graphic by Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: Baylor College of Medicine's Dr. David Corry discusses immunity, vaccine production amid COVID-19 pandemic

Rapid development and distribution of a vaccine worldwide and successful achievement of herd immunity will be key players in determining the lifespan of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dr. David Corry, a professor of Medicine in the Immunology, Allergy and Rheumatology Section at Baylor College of Medicine.

The building would be used as a 15,000-square-foot real estate office near Stearns Lane. (Site plan courtesy Townbridge Homes)
New office building could be headed to W. Hwy. 290 in South Austin

The building would be used as a 15,000 square-foot real estate office near Stearns Lane.

Gourdough's filed for bankruptcy June 23. The South Lamar brick-and-mortar location and its food truck both remain open. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
South Lamar donut spot Gourdough's files for bankruptcy

Court documents show that the owners of Gourdough's poured $1.79 million into a San Antonio location that opened in 2019.

The new partnership will provide on-site, same-day testing and results for assisted-living facility staff and their residents. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
State announces partnership for increased COVID-19 testing for patients, staff at assisted-living facilities, nursing homes

These test sites will help the state work toward the goal of processing up to 100,000 tests in the first month.

The city of Austin has sent three samples of algae from Lady Bird Lake to The University of Texas to test them for toxins. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
University of Texas researchers will test Lady Bird Lake algae for harmful toxins

Last summer, five dogs died in Lady Bird Lake after coming into contact with the toxic blue-green algae.

Former Cedar Park Police Department Chief Sean Mannix is pictured in this 2015 file photo. (Community Impact Newspaper file photo)
Cedar Park police chief moves to Burnet, driver's license offices reopen: Most popular news this week from Central Texas

Read the most popular Central Texas news from the past week on Community Impact Newspaper's website.

A photo of Del Valle ISD's Cardinal stadium
Del Valle ISD approves Tesla incentives, paving way for possible Travis County agreement

The school district's July 9 vote could yield Tesla around $46.4 million in tax abatements if the company chooses Travis County as its next factory site.

Travis County has had 13,864 total confirmed coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic as of July 9. (Community Impact staff)
Travis County tops 700 new COVID-19 cases for second straight day July 9

Travis County has had 13,864 total confirmed coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

Effective July 9, hospitals in more than 100 counties across the state must now postpone elective surgeries unrelated to COVID-19. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
MAP: Governor expands restrictions on elective surgeries to more than 100 Texas counties

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott expanded the restrictions that initially required only hospitals in Bexar, Dallas, Harris, and Travis counties to postpone all non-medically necessary surgeries and procedures that are unrelated to COVID-19.