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Houston Embraces Obamacare Outreach

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“Please help us!” she pleaded. “What should I do, to help them?”

Denise Truong, program director at the Chinese Community Center, described problems she had with the government’s 800 number, which is supposed to offer interpreters in 150 languages. “First, either we can’t reach an interpreter and the phone is hung up, or we reach an interpreter and...the interpreter isn’t qualified to answer questions about the marketplace,” she said.

Michael Coulter, the Medicare official, said there have been problems with the interpreters, but they’re getting fixed and urged the groups to keep trying.

With almost 2.6 million Texans eligible to enroll in the marketplaces, the scope of the enrollment will be historic, Coulter says. “It’s a huge program. This makes our Medicare rollout that we did eight years ago for Part D look like a small Sunday school picnic.” Part D was the plan under which Medicare began to cover the cost of outpatient prescription drugs.

Mota is working with those Texans one at a time. She catches Maribel Hernandez’s attention by telling her that everything will be explained to her clearly. “There’s like no more fine print. It’s, like, plain.”

Hernandez is 38. Her family has insurance, but she’s unhappy with the coverage. Mota tells her she might find a better deal in the marketplace.

Another of Hernandez’s concerns is her diabetes. “It is pre-existing, so will they deny you because of that?” she asked.

“No, ma’am,” Mota answers. “They are prohibited by law now...And they cannot charge you more either.”

“Good,” Hernandez responds, “because that’s one of my main things.”

This story is part of a collaboration that includes KUHF, NPR and Kaiser Health News.

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communications organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Thu, Sep 26 2013

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