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Health Resources for Uninsured Texans

Health Insurance Medicaid & Medicare

This article discusses options when trying to secure healthcare when you do not have health insurance.

This article provides resources for uninsured Texans, particularly if they need help with covid testing or treatment. It also features information on how to get healthcare coverage if you lose your job and your medical insurance benefits.

Local Community Health Centers

You can contact your local community health center for assistance if you do not have health insurance.  To find one near you, use this directory found on the Texas Association of Community Health Centers website. Some centers might ask patients to call first before coming in.

Call 2-1-1 for questions about unemployment insurance, emergency food assistance, city and state orders, help with finding a doctor or accessing care, and more. You can also call toll-free at 877-541-7905 or visit www.211texas.org. Hours: 7 a.m.–8 p.m., seven days per week.

Various cities across Texas (AustinCorpus ChristiDallasFort WorthEl PasoHouston, LubbockSan Antonio) also have websites with public health information and local hotlines for COVID-19 questions and virtual screenings.

COBRA Benefits: I got laid off and had insurance through my job

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) is designed to provide exiting employees the option to continue the coverage (same network of doctors and hospitals, same deductible) they have through their employer’s group health plan. Employers with 20 or more employees are typically required to offer this option.

If you are eligible for COBRA, you usually have up to 60 days to decide if you want to continue your coverage—even if you initially decline, you still have the option to sign up for it within that period.

The continuation coverage is available for up to 18 months—your spouse and dependents can stay covered for three years, depending on the circumstance. See the Department of Labor's FAQs on COBRA for more information.

Note: The part of the premium that your employer used to cover becomes your responsibility under COBRA coverage.

Health Insurance Marketplace: I got laid off and had insurance through my job

The next place to look is the insurance exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act. Losing health insurance that you got through your job is considered a "qualifying event" or Special Enrollment Period to enroll in a plan on all the health insurance exchanges. That means you can go to Healthcare.gov and shop for a new plan.  The open enrollment period ends on Dec. 15 each year, but if you’ve just left your job and lost your employer-based health insurance, you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period that typically lasts 60 days. 

Note that the 60-day period after you leave your job is the same amount of time you have to decide if you want COBRA, which means you’ll have to choose between one or the other during that time—although there are exceptions to that rule. If you don’t sign up during the Special Enrollment Period, you’ll need to wait until the next Marketplace open enrollment period, November 1 through December 15.

Marketplace plans can’t terminate your coverage due to a change in health status—that includes being diagnosed with or being treated for covid.

The Kaiser Family Foundation has created a tool to calculate the average benchmark premiums each year (see the HealthCare.gov definition of the silver plan). It’s unlikely you’ll pay the sticker price. Most people qualify for subsidies like premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions on deductibles, copayments and other out-of-pocket expenses. The Kaiser Family Foundation also has a subsidy calculator so you can see what you might pay in premiums for these plans —remember that your unemployment benefits count as income.

Your household size and income determine which health coverage you’re eligible for and which subsidies you qualify to help pay for the coverage.

When you fill out your Marketplace application, you’ll also be notified if you qualify for free or low-cost coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Neither of these have the enrollment period restrictions like Marketplace plans.

If you do decide to go with a Marketplace plan, ask about the health insurance company’s coverage policy for COVID-19 before you sign anything—currently, many plans cover it the same as any other viral infection, although that policy may change.

My kids have lost their coverage, too. What can I do?

Many people will not have access to insurance they can afford, even with the options mentioned above. If you can't get a health plan for the adults in your family, your children might still be able to get coverage—the rules are different for them and pregnant women. InsureKidsNow.gov is a good place to start determining if your children are eligible. Some Texas school districts also provide services (see below).

Austin Independent School District Resources

If you have a child attending a school in the Austin Independent School District, here are some telehealth resources:

  • Austin ISD offers health services through their Campus Health Rooms. Contact the Austin ISD Student Health Services for information on health services and telehealth options.
  • Austin ISD offers School Mental Health Centers that provide mental health care for students and their families. If your student does not have access to one of Austin ISD's School Mental Health Centers, students, families, and staff are able to apply for telehealth services. Visit Austin ISD's School Mental Health Centers page for more information. 
  • Integral Care: For those experiencing a mental health crisis, you can contact this 24–7 Crisis Helpline at 512-472-HELP (4357) or text "TX" to 741741 to connect to the Crisis Texas Line.  Working with NAMI Central Texas, helpful tools will be posted on their website.

Dallas Independent School District Resources

If you have a child attending a school in the Dallas Independent School District, there are a range of services available to students and families, including:

  • medical services
  • mental health services
  • prescription services

For more information, you can contact your child's school nurse or visit one of DISD's Youth and Family Centers, where you and your family can receive medical attention at little to no cost.

Houston Independent School District Resources

If you have a child attending a school in the Houston Independent School District, affordable health care is available on a number of HISD campuses for students, sometimes family members, and the community. Thanks to hospital foundations, Medicaid, CHIP plans, etc., most services are provided free of charge. Call for eligibility criteria and appointments.

You can search for the nearest health care center through the Houston ISD Health & Medical Services website.

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