Facility in Nacogdoches helps people navigate Affordable Care Ac - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Facility in Nacogdoches helps people navigate Affordable Care Act open enrollment

Enrollment assistance workers are warning people the penalty for not having insurance increases this tax season.  (Source: KTRE Staff) Enrollment assistance workers are warning people the penalty for not having insurance increases this tax season. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Open enrollment for insurance under the Affordable Care Act begins Saturday.  (Source: KTRE Staff) Open enrollment for insurance under the Affordable Care Act begins Saturday. (Source: KTRE Staff)
The East Texas Community Health Center is extending its hours knowing not every applicant will qualify for affordable insurance. (Source: KTRE Staff) The East Texas Community Health Center is extending its hours knowing not every applicant will qualify for affordable insurance. (Source: KTRE Staff)
The clinic will stay open late every day and be open on Saturdays.  (Source: KTRE Staff) The clinic will stay open late every day and be open on Saturdays. (Source: KTRE Staff)
NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) -

The open enrollment period to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act begins on Saturday.

East Texas News met with application counselors at a Nacogdoches enrollment assistance center to find out their expectations.

At the health insurance marketplace the first noticeable difference from the first enrollment period is the quick connection to the government web site.

Also the application is different.

“They've streamlined the application itself,” said Darla O'Neill, the outreach programs coordinator. “Made it where it's not as complicated. Won't take as long to help us assist people to get enrolled."

“If they don't have an account they can go in and create an account,” said Kathy Harris, an enrollment assistance worker.

Consequently, enrollment assistance worker Harris has more opportunity to reach out to the community. The bilingual counselor is targeting the Hispanic community through social media, Spanish newspapers, and direct contact.

“I have sent some letters to the Spanish churches,” Harris said. “Yesterday, I spoke with a preacher from one of the local churches."

Enrollment downfalls are still around.

Enrollment counselor Willie Watts experienced the chaos of the first sign-up period. He's ready for the second but regrets there's only one insurance carrier offering coverage for the Deep East Texas region.

“Only blue cross blue shield. Does that disappoint you?” Watts said. “Yes that cuts down on the competition and keeps the price higher than we thought it would be."

In addition, Watts says thousands of East Texans are falling through the cracks. Those under 100 percent of the poverty level remain uninsured.

“Since Texas and most of the southern states didn't expand Medicaid that's where we have the issue of people falling through the cracks,” Watts said.

Those people are often exempt from required coverage and end up in emergency rooms and health clinics. Others may end up paying a tax penalty which is going up this next tax season.

The open enrollment period for insurance offered under the affordable care act is from Saturday, November 15 through February 15.

A person can visit a help center or go to healthcare.gov to enroll.

The East Texas Community Health Center is offering enrollment assistance at its health insurance marketplace on South Street located across from the courthouse beginning Saturday.

At its clinic on South University Drive, it's extending the hours for medical care beginning Monday.

Twelve-hour days and being open on Saturday will give patients who get sick during the day an opportunity to seek medical attention. The idea is to keep people from going to an emergency room for a non-emergency.

“So we want to be able to be there for our patients when they need us, and those are the kinds of times we find,” said Robin Moore, the clinic's CEO. “People come home from work, and they don't feel well, but they really can't afford to take time out from work so we'll have those hours in the evening and all day Saturday."

The East Texas Community Health Center will be open Monday through Friday from eight in the morning to nine at night. On Saturdays the clinic will be open from eight to five, with an hour closure for lunch.

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