EL PASO, Texas -- The border is home to one of the highest concentrations of people who do not have health insurance. Many are working poor who hold down jobs – but are not covered. They are the exact people the Affordable Care Act is supposed to help.
“I haven’t heard anything, “said Gabriela Galan, as she pushed a stroller carrying her young son in a South El Paso neighborhood.
As enrollment begins Galan and many others in her neighborhood do not have any information about the Affordable Care Act,
Her mother in law said she heard something about getting insurance coverage at work but “Nobody has explained how yet,” said Yolanda Galan.
She’s under the impression her employer, a janitorial service, will finally provide coverage. One out of every four Texans does not have health insurance. Along the border it’s nearly one out of every three people.
According to the Texas Medical Association website, “Texas is the uninsured capital of the United States.
Border cities are among the worst with Brownsville topping the list with 36.8% uninsured. In Laredo 36% do not have health insurance. In McAllen 34%, and in El Paso 28% of people don’t have coverage according to The Texas Medical association figures from 2010.
“I’d pay for it if I could afford it,” said Guillermo Samuel, a construction worker who he has no idea how to enroll.
One disadvantage even though enrollment begins October 1st, the Spanish language website for signing up for a Health Insurance Exchange won’t be ready until October 21st.
And unlike other states, Texas, is not paying any money to help people enroll. Much of that work is funded by federal grants funneled through United Way to grassroots organizations.
Some of those organizations on the border are banding together as they begin outreach efforts.
“There’s conference call every day where we exchange best practices and ways to target different areas,” said Robert Diaz a volunteer with Get Covered America.
In the coming weeks outreach workers will go door to door to explain the healthcare law and how to enroll.
“For a lot of people we have addresses but we don’t have phone numbers so those are the ones we’re going to start meeting door to door,” said Diaz.
They could also enlist support of Virginia Maese who has become famous for her “gorditas” and other Mexican dishes.
“Maese says she’s heard about “Obamacare,” but knows plenty of others in her community have not.
She has health insurance but is happy to spread the word about enrollment both at her restaurant and on weekends at flea markets where her gorditas are big sellers.
“It’s just getting started, right?”