Christopher Flurry served his country as a Marine for over 13 years, and when he left the Corps in 2014, he had a number of things to do to transition into civilian life.
One of those was finding health insurance. Chris had three options: He could enroll in VA’s national health care, join his wife’s insurance plan, or he could shop around, something that was difficult to do before the Affordable Care Act. Before the law passed, insurance companies could deny people coverage because of pre-existing conditions, or set restrictive annual limits on their coverage. Even if they didn’t, it was nearly impossible to find a clear and understandable menu of health plans. People shopping for coverage had to call each insurance company individually to get quotes on a plan.
Chris chose to explore his options for private coverage outside of the VA. Fortunately, when he began his search, he had the Health Insurance Marketplace. He logged onto HealthCare.gov and quickly found a plan that offered the same coverage as his wife’s plan, but at a monthly premium that was $150 less. The Marketplace was there for Chris and his wife when they needed it.
Every Veterans Day, we recommit ourselves to serving the men and women who have served our country. We work to fulfill the spirit of the words that President Lincoln delivered a century and a half ago, when he called on our nation to care for those “who shall have borne the battle” and their families. For many Veterans and their families, like Chris, that means ensuring access to quality, affordable health coverage.
If you’re a Veteran, you may be eligible for additional Federal health options. Veterans who retire from the military are covered through TRICARE and all eligible veterans can choose to enroll in the VA health care program; they don’t need to purchase additional coverage. If you’re unsure if you or a loved one is eligible for health care through the VA, visit www.va.gov/healthbenefits or call 1-877-222-VETS (8387).
If you’re a Veteran who does not have coverage through a Veterans’ health program, you should visit HealthCare.gov. Or perhaps you know someone, like a family member or even a fellow Veteran, who isn’t enrolled in VA’s health care plan and doesn’t have other qualifying Veterans’ health coverage. In that case, you should let them know that the Marketplace is open for business.
Open Enrollment for the Marketplace started on November 1 and goes until January 31. People looking for coverage to start on January 1 need to sign up by December 15. Chris found out how easily he could search through a clear list of private, affordable health plans, and this year we’re continuing to put the customer at the center.
First of all, financial help is available to make health coverage more affordable. In fact, more than 7 in 10 returning Marketplace customers will be able to buy a plan for $75 or less a month in premiums after tax credits.
Second, signing up is even easier than before. Once people have applied for coverage on HealthCare.gov, they can immediately see the type of coverage they qualify for and how much financial help they can get. A new Out-of-Pocket Cost estimator will help customers estimate the cost of their insurance based on their personal situation. We’ve also made it simpler to reenroll. Returning customers can view and compare their current plan to others without entering a 14-digit plan identification number.
Finally, no one has to shop alone. There are people available to help, whether in person or over the phone. So if you have any questions, you have a place to turn to get assistance. Our consumer call-line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-318-2596. And people can sign up right in their communities. In-person help can be found online at LocalHelp.HealthCare.gov.
Chris soon answered the call to serve again and he joined the Reserves. In the Reserves, he and his wife have quality health coverage through TRICARE and he maintains his enrollment in VA healthcare. But he is relieved that the Marketplace connected him and his family with affordable, quality coverage when they needed it most. For many Veterans, their families and their communities, the health coverage available through the Marketplace is one way that our nation keeps our promise to them.
This Veterans Day, we honor those Americans who have served in uniform by making this nation stronger and healthier.
About the authors: Bob McDonald is the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Sylvia Mathews Burwell is the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post.