Ken Kalthoff, NBC 5 News
On the first day of open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act's health care program, Dallas' Parkland Hospital is working hard to promote the new plan as a way to treat fewer uninsured patients.
Despite the government shutdown, Obamacare is open for business -- sort of.
It’s the first day uninsured Americans can sign up for health care under the new law. But, NBC5 discovered the government website, healthcare.gov, wasn’t working properly.
More than a million North Texans don’t have health insurance. Many went to clinics like Los Barrios Unidos in Dallas to sign up, only to find out the website is down.
“Right now, I don’t have the money to pay for it,” says Gloria Cervantes. The mother of three can’t afford insurance. That could change with the Affordable Healthcare Act.
“It’s going to be cheaper, less expensive, and I really need it,” says Cervantes.
On the first day of online open enrollment, an error message appeared: “We have a lot of visitors on our site right now and we’re working to make your experience better. Please wait here until we send you to the login page. Thanks for your patience!”
“I’m not surprised at all we've had a lot of interest, a lot of questions. I'm not surprised at all. I'm actually happy that there's so much interest. That a lot of people are actually trying to apply,” says Los Barrios Unidos Community Clinic CEO, Leonor Marquez Cantu.
Workers at Los Barrios Unidos are going with the flow, signing up patients with paper applications and helping them understand the options.
In DFW, there are up to 53 plans to choose from with different levels of deductibles and copays all based on income.
“We actually can't enroll if the site is down, but we can still assist people through the process manually,” says Marquez Cantu.
For people who haven't been able to afford healthcare or have been denied because of preexisting conditions, the new law provides hope and access to care.
“She’s going to get her checkups and I'm going to pay less," says Cervantes.
“Having coverage will be a lot better for them, not just for their clinic visit here, if they need specialty care or hospital care, it'll be so much better for them to have coverage,” says Marquez Cantu.
For people who sign up for insurance, benefits begin as early as January 1.
Texas hospitals, clinics and charities are helping the uninsured enroll in health care exchanges after Gov. Rick Perry declared the state government would do as little as possible to help implement the Affordable Care Act.
Texas is one of 27 states that did not set up its own health insurance exchange because of Republican opposition to the plan.
Texas did not expand Medicaid to the working poor, so millions will remain uninsured.