Affordable Care Act

Despite Delays, Houstonians Optimistic About New Obamacare Website

Today was a historic day in healthcare, the first day uninsured people could sign up for new health plans under the Affordable Care Act. At least, in theory. Houstonians were confronted by a slow and overburdened federal website. Still, Obamacare supporters say a few technical hiccups won’t stop the enrollment effort. is where Texans can go to search for a plan.

Houston insurance agent Travis Middleton tried to log on when he got to his office at 8 a.m.

“Oh, wait a minute, we’ve already got our first miscue. Health insurance marketplace, please wait. We’re being blocked out. Nope! Oh! We’re still blocked out. We can’t even log in at this point.”

Middleton says he’s not surprised, since so many people are curious about the plans and prices.

“…Doo-doo-doodle-loo-loo, doo, doo doo, doo-doo-doodle-loo-loo. Uh, it just refreshed and we’ve still got the same website note.”

That was the situation in other places as well.  

City leaders held a press conference at the downtown library, and provided two laptops where uninsured Houstonians tried to sign up.

Deborah Boswell of the Harris Health System tried to help Cecilia Fontenot.

Fontenot is 63, works part-time, and is uninsured.

“So, the first question is which best describes you: I’m looking for myself and my family or small business.”


“ So let’s click that.”

The two got partially through the questions, until an error message appeared saying they would have to wait.

Fontenot says she’ll give it a few days, then try again.

“So I have hypertension, I’m diabetic and I have cholesterol and every time I go for a mammogram, they seem to find a lump that I have to go back again, and I can’t afford to go back again.”

Despite the technical glitches, supporters of the law are staying upbeat.

State Sen. Rodney Ellis is a Democrat.

“Today is opening day, this is a happy day. And the challenge is for us to get the word out to people.”

In the Third Ward neighborhood, insurance counselors at the nonprofit Gateway To Care were taking phone calls in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

One counselor, Stephanie Pollock, says she recently talked to an uninsured woman who has diabetes. The woman’s husband has a heart condition.

The couple can’t afford all their medications, so they skip pills every other day.

Pollock says the woman can’t wait for the new insurance marketplace.

“And she started crying and she said, ‘Do you know you’re saving our lives? We’re gonna live, we’re gonna live!’ And I almost started crying cause I thought this is the face of America that we’re talking about, that we’re changing lives. It’s people that fall through the cracks.”

In the Houston region, there are 1.5 million people without insurance. About half will be eligible for subsidized plans on the marketplace.


For more information about the Affordable Care Act, visit

For more information and to obtain enrollment assistance, visit or call 832-393-5423 or toll-free at 1-855-892-8082.

Residents can also visit the national Health Insurance Marketplace at or call the national toll-free number 1-800-318-2596.