Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Texas Insurance Brokers Play Bigger Obamacare Role

By Carrie Feibel, Houston Public Media

Wed, Feb 11 2015

As the health law’s second open enrollment season barrels to a close on Sunday, nearly a million Texans have purchased or applied for health insurance. This time around, insurance brokers are aggressively marketing themselves to shoppers – it’s a big change for the brokers who have had an uneasy relationship with the health law for years.

Bart Franco is one customer who sought help from a broker this time. He is the pastor of a tiny community church that he founded in a garage behind his house near downtown Houston where he spends hours every day in prayer.

Franco, 65, is retired and covered by Medicare, so he needed to buy insurance for his wife and son. When he tried to enroll them in an Affordable Care Act plan last year, he got nowhere.

Franco missed the 2014 deadline to get a plan on the federal marketplace exchange. He later called Blue Cross Blue Shield directly and succeeded in purchasing a short-term catastrophic plan for his family. But he felt the process was rushed, and he was uncomfortable with the plan’s high deductible.

“They just give you insurance and [say that] it costs this much, and you only pay $146 (a month) that sounds good, doesn’t it? OK, fine. You’re hooked, and you don’t even know what you have.”

So this year, when enrollment began again for 2015 plans, he turned to Jo Middleton, a licensed insurance broker who had advertised in the local paper.

“She connected us on the computer. She showed us everything, showed us a deduction, why we didn’t want this and why we didn’t want that. So she explained everything,” Franco said.

Franco’s rough experience last year was common, says Middleton, who is also president of the Houston Association of Health Underwriters. People struggled to pick plans on their own, using the website. Many learned later they couldn’t afford the deductible. Others discovered that a favorite doctor or hospital wasn’t accepting a particular plan.

source : Texas Insurance Brokers Play Bigger Obamacare Role

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