As Deadline Approaches, ObamaCare Navigators Help The Uninsured In OK

Wednesday, January 29th 2014, 4:56 pm

The deadline for folks without health insurance to sign up is getting closer. Oklahomans have until March 31 to sign up or they will face a fine.

The latest information says 14,999 Oklahomans have selected a Marketplace plan. But, that's only 3.4 percent of eligible, uninsured Oklahomans.

Part of Obamacare includes Navigators, whose job it is to help people maneuver though the federal marketplace. Those we talked to say they expect to get considerably busier in the coming months.

In the heart of Oklahoma City, at the Latino Community Development Agency, Lordes Chapa and her colleagues are helping thousands Navigate through Obamacare. The Agency is one of three in Oklahoma that received a grant from the Federal Government. They got $178,500 and serve nine counties in central Oklahoma. That money goes to help pay for two full time Navigators and five part-time and volunteer workers. They speak Spanish, Vietnamese and English.

"We are helping just everybody, everybody," Chapa said.

Chapa says most of her clients came to the Latino center for other services, and then saw they were here too. But to reach more people they have advertised in Latino newspapers and TV and hold outreach events at churches. So far about 4000 people have come to them for help.

"Honestly there's a lot of people who say I just don't want to get fined," Chapa said.

You have to be in United States legally to sign up for Obamacare. But Chapa says if you are a legal resident but don't have citizenship, the web site will run into a dead end. In that case that Navigators try to call the customer service phone line.

"Sometimes the customer service reps can do it on their end, but sometimes they can't, either, because that's what they tell us,'the verification system is down and we can't do it here either,'" Chapa said.

That's when they are told to call back later and they have to stop the process. The Navigators we talked to say they are figuring out ways around the issue, that includes sending a proof of residency to the government.

But Chapa says people most are pleasantly surprised when they see their options. The president of the Center says about 500 people have signed up on site the rest went home to make a final decision.

"It is rewarding when you enroll people, especially when they tell you ‘I've never had medical insurance. This is going to be the first time,'" Chapa said.

Chapa says they will be expanding their hours in the coming weeks to accommodate all those people that still have to sign up. They are also having an event on Saturday February 9 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. where folks can sign up.


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