Central Texans receive help signing up for insurance


by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and Photojournalist Erin Coker

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE


Posted on October 1, 2013 at 6:15 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 1 at 6:51 PM

AUSTIN -- Tuesday was the first day Americans had to shop online for their health insurance.

With more than 80 plans to choose from and the online applications asking for tax return information, several people opted for a little help with their health insurance.

What better place to shop than at the mall?

Sheyla Ortega and her mother Araceli arrived at the Insure Central Texas headquarters in Highland Mall before it opened Tuesday. They were excited but also filled with questions about purchasing health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

"I've heard on the news and people talk about it, but we really don't know what to expect out of it," said Ortega. "Being here on the first day is really going to help a lot to know what path to take."

"I don't have medical coverage," said Lisa Byrd. She told KVUE she's spent her entire career working for small non-profits. They have not been able to provide her with healthcare coverage, so she's done without.

Byrd says she's becoming increasingly concerned with each passing year.

"I'm a woman of a certain age and certain illnesses are prevalent," she said. "You are getting a little nervous. How am I going to cover it? Am I going to lose all that I have just to pay for medical care?"

Those are the types of questions Insure Central Texas hopes to answer.

"We're helping people see what the costs are for the insurance and what they're eligible for," said director Elizabeth Colvin.

With thousands across the country trying to access the Healthcare.gov online health insurance marketplace, logging on to the site became a challenge Tuesday.

After the log-in jam was over, applicants spent on average one hour to 90 minutes getting answers to their most pressing questions. Some signed up immediately.  Some went home to sleep on it, preferring to make their decision a bit later.

"You never know what can happen," said Ortega. "Having insurance just makes it a little bit better with the doctors and anything especially having siblings-younger siblings."

"For me this is a very important day," said Byrd. "It's an opportunity for me to figure out how to get medical coverage."

Open enrollment lasts until March, but officials say if you want your insurance to begin by Jan. 1, 2014, you have to fill out your application and pay your first premium by Dec. 15.

  • Go here for more information on the Affordable Care Act
  • Go here for more information on Insure Central Texas
  • Go here for our Health Reform section