The second open enrollment period for the federal health insurance marketplace established under the Affordable Care Act began on November 15. In just the first week, over 1 million people completed applications for health care coverage. Close to half of those – 460,000 – have already selected plans. And roughly half of those – 222,000 – were new customers. We don’t yet know the state-by-state breakdown, but we do know that the Obama Administration is making a major push to get the close to 3 million Texans who are eligible for Obamacare enrolled.
Last week Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell visited Texas to promote enrollment. Her trip included a meeting with state and local leaders in Dallas, a stop in Houston, an event in Alamo City and another in San Antonio. The visit has been characterized as a way to get the word out about Obamacare in Texas even if Rick Perry’s administration and the Republican legislature won’t.
Though Burwell visited several Texas cities, she noted the importance of enrolling Texans from all parts of the state. Asked about the sixteen counties in West Texas whose uninsured rates are higher than 30 percent, she responded, “We want to be sure those people are reached as well… We have navigators and community assistance so that people can have that local help and assistance.” Though Burwell did not cite a specific numerical enrollment goal for Texas, she said that she plans to make multiple trips to the state to continue to promote enrollment.
At the San Antonio event, Burwell was joined by Congressman Joaquin Castro, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor. “It is absolutely essential that people in rural Texas have the same opportunity to get health coverage as people in the big cities,” Rep. Castro said at the event. “And I hope that the Texas Legislature will work with the U.S. government to make it easier for people in small towns to get enrolled in health care.”
There are also organizations like Enroll America helping with health insurance outreach around the state. And going into the second open enrollment period, they are able to apply the lessons they learned from the first. “We learned about the importance of follow-up and the need for a lot of outreach,” said Mimi Garcia, Enroll America’s Texas director. In addition to in-person assistance, they plan engage more grass roots organizaters and community leaders to educate Texans about their health insurance options.
To date roughly 6.7 million people have enrolled through the federal exchange nationwide. The Administration is aiming for over 9 million by the end of this enrollment period on February 15, 2015. Though enrolling over 730,000 Texans last year was a major achievement, there are still millions more who can and should be covered.
We previously reported on everything you need to know to get enrolled - eligibility, deadlines, fines for not getting covered, what to do if you already enrolled last year and how to get help. You can also check out upcoming enrollment events here.