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Health Insurance Enrollments Picking Up In Dallas, Slowly

Lauren Silverman
Abby Garza, a Certified Application Counselor at Barrios Unidos in West Dallas, helps a patient enroll in health insurance through the federal exchange.

Last minute shoppers are streaming in to Los Barrios Unidos Community Clinic in West Dallas, seeking help to enroll in health insurance before the Dec. 23 deadline — that’s the date people have to buy insurance through the federal exchange so coverage starts Jan. 1.

Abby Garza – a certified application counselor, or “navigator” at Barrios Unidos, has been busy since the October enrollment period started. But in the last few weeks, the rush has been intense.

“It’s pretty bad. I’m getting (…) 60, 70 calls a day. Which is a lot,” Garza says.

Garza, along with two other navigators, can squeeze in a dozen or so people every day. Signing up a student or individual might take only a half hour, a family of six, several hours.

Garza has helped hundreds apply for health coverage through the federal marketplace. But how many have actually chosen a plan, sent in a payment and crossed the finish line?

One patient.

The rest, Garza says, received some information by mail, but are still looking over their options. Many are learning about HMOs and PPOs for the first time, and the options can be overwhelming, Garza says.

“They didn’t know all this, so now what they’re doing now that the have all this information they’re being picky,” she says. “They really want to get something that they’re going to use. If they’re paying for it and it’s the law, they want to make sure they’re going to use it.”

Lauren Silverman was the Health, Science & Technology reporter/blogger at KERA News. She was also the primary backup host for KERA’s Think and the statewide newsmagazine  Texas Standard. In 2016, Lauren was recognized as Texas Health Journalist of the Year by the Texas Medical Association. She was part of the Peabody Award-winning team that covered Ebola for NPR in 2014. She also hosted "Surviving Ebola," a special that won Best Long Documentary honors from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). And she's won a number of regional awards, including an honorable mention for Edward R. Murrow award (for her project “The Broken Hip”), as well as the Texas Veterans Commission’s Excellence in Media Awards in the radio category.