With the coronavirus surging, now is not the time to be without health insurance. Open enrollment – the short period during which you can enroll in health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), choose your plan, or switch to a better plan – is underway, but you have only until Tuesday, Dec. 15, to sign up. Make your health and the health of your loved ones top priority on your holiday shopping list.

A decade ago, the ACA, which has expanded coverage and protected the right to health care for all Americans with preexisting conditions, was signed into law. Since then, Republicans have mounted more than 60 repeal efforts and have stood in the way of our efforts to make health care more affordable and accessible. But the law’s critical protections remain firm and have saved countless lives.

According to the latest census numbers, nearly 300,000 San Antonians are without health insurance. In the pandemic, so many San Antonians have lost their jobs, and as a result, lost their health coverage at a time when insurance is all the more critical.

Though it is being challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Affordable Care Act and its protection for preexisting conditions remains the law of the land. It continues to represent the best path for so many to obtain the security of health insurance and access to a family physician – security from the daily possibility of a serious accident or illness, whether COVID-related or not. Any Supreme Court ruling will not affect the coverage you obtained for the coming year.

Selecting a plan is not just about finding the cheapest option. Take time to compare network directories and make sure your doctors and hospital are covered. Too many people are hit by big surprise medical bills because their doctor was not included in their insurance network. I authored the first bill that would shield consumers from surprise medical bills. Since we continue to press for passage of that bill, in the meantime, you can take preventative steps to reduce risk, like ensuring your plan includes your preferred doctors and has affordable coverage for the care you need.

Short-term plans have been promoted as an alternative to comprehensive coverage from the virtual insurance marketplace. These plans usually do not provide essential coverage like maternity care, mental health care or substance abuse treatment, or prescription drugs. They can also deny coverage or charge higher prices to people with preexisting conditions like diabetes, cancer, or even survivors and victims of domestic abuse.

Right here in San Antonio, assistance is available to help you navigate the marketplace. EnrollSA, the official local navigator, offers free assistance in matching your family’s health care needs with alternative insurance policies. EnrollSA helps you determine if you qualify for federal subsidies to make coverage even more affordable; many are eligible for zero-dollar premium coverage. EnrollSA will also help you research plans, networks, and drug formularies to make it easier to figure out what plan best meets your personal needs.

Even if you already have a plan, you may have better options in 2021 with two new insurers entering our local market. You can get aid in enrolling over the phone or set up a video or phone appointment, in Spanish or English, online or at 210-977-7997. 

Don’t let politics in Washington keep you from getting covered in Texas. Safeguard your family from piles of medical bills after an unexpected health care need, like a car accident or a prolonged hospital stay while battling COVID-19.

I continue working to improve the Affordable Care Act, to make it both more affordable and more accessible. But, for most San Antonians, it already offers significant protection. During open enrollment through this Tuesday, Dec. 15, make full use of it.

U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-San Antonio) represents Texas’s 35th District in the House of Representatives, including much of Bexar County. He chairs the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee.