Shoppers can prepare to shop for health insurance

Online federal marketplace to open enrollment period Tuesday

Consumers can start shopping for healthcare providers soon.
Consumers can start shopping for healthcare providers soon.

SAN ANTONIO – When the digital doors open Tuesday to the new health care marketplace, Don Luna will be browsing. He has no health insurance is concerned about how much it will cost.

"I am very concerned," he said.

The place he will be able to compare plans and costs and enroll is www.healthcare.gov. The marketplace, or exchange as it is also called, is intended for people who do not have coverage through an employer or government program like Medicaid or Medicare.

"We're expecting a lot of phone calls," said Quiara Sherrard, chief revenue officer of Communicare. 

As many of 60 percent of Communicare's patients are uninsured.

For the past several weeks, certified assistance counselors have been training at Communicare so they can help people understand the new world of health insurance.

"That's part of our job in educating people, not just getting them enrolled, but telling them what a co-pay is, what a deductible is," Sherrard said.

Before applying for coverage, there are some things shoppers need. Those are Social Security numbers, W2 forms or wage and tax statements, policy numbers for any current health coverage and a completed employer coverage tool. 

That tool can be found on www.healthcare.gov.

"If they are not very comfortable doing things online and are wanting someone in person, they can come to one our our clinics," Sherrard said. "They can go to one of CentroMed's clinics and we have community partners like University Hospital System and Methodist Healthcare."

Many hospitals, clinics, doctor's offices and pharmacies will have people who can help answer questions.

Enrollment does not need to be completed Oct. 1. In fact, it will take some time to weigh the coverage options and costs. 

Enrollment will remain open through March 2014. However, for coverage to begin Jan. 1, enrollment through the marketplace should be completed by Dec. 15.

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