Laredo Morning Times: We all need access to healthcare

LAREDO, Texas, February 7, 2015 | Rafael Benavides ((956) 725-0639)

Everyone needs health insurance because we will all need access to healthcare at some point in our life.

Some will require more healthcare services than others, and that is certainly true for much of South Texas, where much of the population suffers from disproportionate rates of heart disease, diabetes and cancer, among other chronic diseases.

Despite these facts, the percentage of insured people in South Texas remains surprisingly low.

Not having insurance means you will pay much more out-of-pocket when you need healthcare services. Having insurance not only caps the amount you will have to pay for any medical service or procedure, it makes life-saving services within the reach of people who most need it.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) makes sure that no one will ever be turned away again due to a pre-existing condition and also provides for free preventative care as a way of encouraging people to get regular checkups and treat health issues before they become more complicated and more expensive to treat.

My office partnered with local, state and federal organizations to provide free informative ACA workshops throughout District 28 where residents could get their questions answered and sign up for a health care plan that met their needs with on-site certified healthcare navigators.

Thanks to organizations like Get Covered America, the Small Business Administration, Area Health Education Centers (AHEC), EnrollSA and many others, we were able to host a number of workshops since enrollment began in November of last year in Bexar, Wilson, Atascosa, McMullen, La Salle, Webb, Zapata, Starr and Hidalgo counties.

The deadline to enroll in a healthcare plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace is Sunday, February 15. You can view plans at HealthCare.gov, CuidadoDeSalud.gov, or by calling (800) 318-2596.

You might qualify for lower costs for health insurance coverage depending on certain factors such as your yearly income and the number of people who live with you.

You may also have to pay a penalty when you submit your tax returns this year if you are not insured in a plan that qualifies as minimally essential coverage.

Having health insurance means peace of mind not just for you, but for those who depend on you such as children, parents, and grandparents.

Our society needs a strong a healthy population to prosper and grow.

Millions of people across the country and in Texas have already enrolled in health insurance. If you do not have health insurance, I encourage you to take advantage of the health plans available to you via the Marketplace on HealthCare.gov and CuidadoDeSalud.gov.

Henry Cuellar is the U.S. House representative for Texas' 28th congressional District.