Health & Science

Texas’ Biggest Health Insurer Offers Obamacare Plans And Free Health Fair

The government's new website for the uninsured,, continues to be plagued with problems. But health groups are still out there promoting the law, like the state's largest insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield.

If you’re uninsured and you live in Harris County, you have a good selection of health plans to choose from under the Affordable Care Act. Theoretically.

The website is still slow and buggy, but once that gets worked out, Houstonians will find they can choose from 42 different plans.

Eighteen of those plans are being offered by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas.

Across Texas, BCBS is offering 4,572 plans — more than half of the total 6,722 plans being offered in Texas through the online marketplace exchange.

Dr. Bob Morrow is the company’s chief medical officer for the Houston area.

“Texas is a big place, and getting this program together through the state for Blue Cross Blue Shield was a very difficult undertaking, but it’s our mission. So we’ve done it. Yeah we’re pleased, we’re clearly competitive across the state as we expected to be.”

By competitive, he means that in many local markets, Blue Cross often has the lowest-priced plan in a certain category, such as bronze or silver or gold.

Each category has a different cost-sharing plan. In the bronze category, buyers can choose lower premiums and higher cost sharing.

A gold plan will have higher premiums but lower cost sharing.   

As Morrow admits, it can be confusing.

“This is the most sweeping health care reform in my lifetime and it is — or it can be complicated. And that’s why we have the health care fair coming up at Reliant Center on October 12.”

That free health fair is this Saturday from 9 to 3.

There will be health screenings, flu shots, a grocery giveaway and information about the Affordable Care Act. And there will be computers if people want to try to enroll in a plan, with the help of an insurance navigator.

Still, the focus of the health fair is on education, not necessarily getting a plan that day.

Health advocates point out that uninsured people should shop slowly and carefully.

Price is one factor, but plans will also have different network rules and restrictions on doctor choice.

Understanding the nuances could take time.