CREDIT: Scott Keyes
HOUSTON, Texas — Diana Moller didn’t expect that Obamacare would help her. Living in south Texas, she said, “all I ever hear about it is that it was pushed through and won’t work.”
The 61-year-old Texas native knew how important health insurance was, and used to buy it on her own because it wasn’t offered through her caregiver job. But after Diana fell at work and needed knee surgery, her premiums surged and, like so many Americans with pre-existing conditions, she could no longer afford insurance.
Unfortunately, health calamities don’t always come at convenient times. She soon threw out her back lifting a patient. Her boss didn’t take kindly to the fact that she was unable to walk the next day, and Diana was promptly fired. And while there’s never a good time to develop diabetes, doing so without health insurance and without a job is certainly an especially bad time.
So that’s why on Wednesday, just the second day that the new Obamacare exchanges were open, Diana found herself working with an Obamacare Certified Application Counselor (CAC) to figure out if the new law could help her get insurance. Similar to navigators, CACs are trained to help enroll people in Obamacare, though the latter group hasn’t received a specific funding grant.
Diana worked with Elizabeth Arellano, who walked her through the Obamacare process, showed her how to create an account for the exchanges, and answered any questions Diana had. The healthcare.gov website was still experiencing a surge in traffic during Diana’s consultation, but Elizabeth guided her through the website and how to navigate it at home.
Speaking with ThinkProgress afterwards, Diana said the consultation was “very helpful” and she was eager to sign up on her home computer “as soon as I can.”
Watch highlights from Diana’s visit:
Like canvassers, which ThinkProgress profiled yesterday, CACs and navigators are an integral part of Obamacare’s success. While canvassers go out door-to-door advertising the benefits of Obamacare, counselors help guide people who want to sign up through the process.
With Obamacare exchanges now open for business, counselors across the country have been holding workshops like the one that ThinkProgress attended on Wednesday. That event was put on by Harris Health, a network of community health centers, hospitals, and clinics that caters to low- and middle-income residents in the greater Houston area. With the Republican-led Texas state government unwilling to cooperate with health reform, the burden rests on groups like Harris Health to help the 27 percent of Houston residents — over one million people — sign up for insurance.