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Countdown to Get Covered Bus stops in RGV

20140312 McAllen-Healthcare-Bus AF  IMG 0016McALLEN— With a 3-month-old baby at home, Amber Arriaga, 27, there was no question that she needed to sign up for insurance coverage by the end of the month.

That’s why she made a point of stopping by the “Countdown to Get Covered” bus tour hosted by Enroll America at the McAllen Public Library on Wednesday.

Arriaga’s coworker, Ruben Garza, said the organization they work for assists with the promotion of applying for healthcare across the Rio Grande Valley. Still, he said, they both would take advantage of any assistance provided because even with their knowledge of the program, they still had questions about the application.

“Even we need to pair up with navigators, and we know more about the program than the average person, so this is wonderful,” Arriaga said.

Both Arriaga and Garza work with the Texas Organizing Project, which works to improve the lives of low-income and working-class Texas families through community organizing and civic and electoral engagement. Arriaga said TOP also holds seminars that assist local citizens to gain more information on the healthcare program.

“I think about my grandparents–who don’t own a computer and have never owned one in their lives–how are they going to sit there and navigate through this website,” Garza said. “Our community is not used to being insured so another problem that I have been hearing about is people do qualify, and then they don’t know what plan to choose.”

Arriaga said since insurance is new to many Valley residents, contract terms are unfamiliar to citizens as well as the elderly.

Wednesday, library visitors were able to listen to representatives from the “Countdown to Get Covered” bus tour discuss why submitting the application for affordable healthcare was crucial.

The bus made its first visit in McAllen, which is one out of a six-city tour through Texas. The group set up a booth at the library for community members to ask questions and receive guidance with the online registration process for the insurance marketplace.

“So far we have seen some real success. We’ve seen that nearly 300,000 Texans have already enrolled in coverage through the health insurance marketplace,” said Ann Filipic, Get Covered America president. “And 82 percent of those who have enrolled in Texas have received financial assistance to help pay for their plans.”

To help the cause, the library will have a computer lab equipped with staff to assist community members interested in signing up for a healthcare option in the marketplace from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. during weekdays.

English and Spanish speaking residents are encouraged to attend the library for assistance or visit the campaign website, www.getcoveredamerica.org, to locate application spots closer to home.

Filipic said applicants have the option of going through the application process through the website, in person or over the phone.

“You never know what you might qualify for unless you apply,” Filipic said. “Six out of 10 Americans can find plans $100 or less a month, and half of young people can find a plan for under $50.”

Filipic added no one could be denied coverage because they are sick or if they have a pre-existing condition like asthma, diabetes or even cancer. All plans are required to cover the important benefits: preventative care, hospitalization, maternity care and trips to the emergency room.

Mimi Garcia, Texas director for Enroll America, said there are penalties if applicants do not sign up for a healthcare plan prior to the March 31 deadline. She added fines can be anywhere from $95 to $285 for each person, including children and partners who are not insured.

For more information on the campaign visit www.getcoveredamerica.org.

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