With all of the talk about Obamacare being repealed, some people don't realize it's still the law. And there's an important deadline coming up. Enrollment for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act for 2017 ends in eight days, the last day of January.
ACA navigators who helped people sign up for coverage are trying to dispel rumors. In San Antonio, more people are signing up for the ACA than ever before.
At Antioch Missionary Baptist Church on San Antonio's East Side, Affordable Care Act navigators gathered information from people who may qualify for health insurance through the ACA.
In this fourth year of the ACA, Anel Trevino of the Daughters of Charity Services of San Antonio says groups like hers are trying to get out the word that Obamacare is not going away tomorrow.
”People ask ‘Do I still need to get coverage?’ Yes, you do. Regardless of what happens, people need coverage,” Trevino recounted. “So just come get the assistance. It's free and it's available.”
At San Antonio College, Spanish tutor Alfred Campos is signing up for the fourth time. He's 62 and says the ACA has provided the best health insurance coverage he's ever had.
“There are a lot of mistaken notions,” Campos said. “A lot of people thought even though they enrolled, it was still going to cost them a lot.”
That was not Campos' experience. When he started talking to his peers, more signed up.
“When I told my co-workers, they signed up immediately,” he remarked. “One found out. Then another found out. It's more like word of mouth.”
Although President Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to repeal Obamacare in his first 100 days in office, and replace it, Campos says he thinks the tide is turning.
“They kind of waffled a little bit on taking it away,” Campos observed. “Now they're coming back where they want to keep something.”
37-year-old Akoko Amovin, a college student from Togo, West Africa, is signing up for the first time. Before now, she relied on the the Bexar County public hospital system's assistance program, called CareLink, for her medical needs. Finding out she qualified for Obamacare made this future nurse feel more secure.
“I'm so happy and grateful today,” Amovin said. “Right now, I'm fine. But I need it just in case.”
Amovin is one of the so-called "young and healthies" the Affordable Care Act assumed would sign up in greater numbers to help keep the program well-funded. Overall, that hasn't happened. Now, Amovin is keeping an eye on developments in Congress.
“I'm really concerned because I really don't know what's going to be the final decision,” she stated.
“The Affordable Care Act is not a perfect bill,” said Joe Ibarra, Texas Deputy State Director of Enroll America. “We definitely would welcome any improvement.”
Ibarra said the political rhetoric surrounding the future of the ACA has made the job of signing people up much more challenging. “It is frustrating in the sense there's a lot of misinformation out there,” he added.
Before the Affordable Care Act, one in four people who live in Bexar County were uninsured, 25 percent. For the first time since those records have been kept, the number of uninsured is now less than 20 percent.
More than 120,000 people in Bexar County enrolled in the ACA last year. Health and Human Services figures project a one percent increase this year.
Ibarra says that's a trend across Texas and the rest of the country. “The state as a whole, we're looking at a one percent gain. And across the country we're seeing more enrollments,” he said.
While that is far from the goal of everyone having health insurance, Ibarra and others say it would be a shame to throw out the gains made without a solid plan for what's next. “I don't think that we can afford as a city or as a nation to go back to that place,” Ibarra said.
Congressional Republicans have already started the process to get rid of Obamacare. But until they do,the deadline to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act is Jan. 31, 2017.