Despite Glitches, Houstonians Are Flocking to the Obamacare Exchanges

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Photo provided by Christian Kidd
Christian and Alexis Kidd
Even as the United States government shut down over a deadlock in Congress regarding the continued funding of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, the insurance exchanges created by the law that allow private citizens to shop for plans that will cover them despite pre-existing conditions opened for business Monday morning. The online servers and even some phone operators themselves occasionally locked up under the flood of people seeking coverage, but many people in Houston were still able to secure new plans -- some of them for the first time in years.

"Who benefits from Obamacare?" asked Martha Vasquez-Delgado on Facebook. "Me, I have a pre existence condition called Multiple Sclerosis, my medications are $4000 a month. Yes, a fucking month .And we just switched insurance. Thank you, President Obama. And forget you opposers."

One person who has been avidly waiting for this day for years is Alexis Kidd, the wife of legendary Houston punk rocker Christian Kidd of The Hates. Christian is retired from his day job working for the City of Houston, and receives a small healthcare package as part of his pension. Alexis, sadly, was never able to be added because of her history with mesothelioma, a rare cancer that attacks the protective lining of many of the body's internal organs.

See also: Lack of Social Safety Net Tying Many Musicians to Day Jobs

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Though Alexis's cancer has been in remission for years, they've been waiting in fear of its return while the years between the passage of the ACA and the day that she could no longer be denied affordable coverage to treat her disease passed slowly. Aid came from private sources, such as Wish Upon a Wedding, which provides financial help to couples seeking to marry but whose funds are tied up with treatments, and Dream Rooms Furniture, which donated $1,500 to the Kidds after a successful Facebook like campaign.

Alexis found the signup online glitchy. A section that asked her to pick security questions had no options. Even when she attempted to call and speak to a representative in person, she wasn't able to completely finish the process as the system continued to have issues, locking up from so many people signing up.

"I know that on the first day of anything new, there can and will be trouble," said Alexis. "Working for a software company taught me that. In a way, it is kind of a good thing that people are genuinely interested in looking to see for themselves what Obamacare can do to help them...at this point, almost any kind of insurance is better than the nothing many of us have now."

Author Joni Rodgers (Bald in the Land of Big Hair, a cancer survivor, is also among those who enthusiastically signed up for the ACA insurance exchanges. For years she'd either been turned down flat for coverage or offered coverage at $1,400 to $1,600 a month. Using the exchanges, she was able to find a plan for only $240 a month that can cover her when her husband retires.

"It was actually okay with them that before today, my choices were to die, leave the country or divorce my husband of 30 years to protect his retirement savings," said Rodgers. "That was not okay with Barack Obama. I am incredibly grateful to him for fighting this fight on my behalf."

The fight to defund or delay Obamacare continues to rage in Congress, with no signs of progress at the time of this writing. Despite the wrangling at the top, though, those who were targeted by the law to receive health care previously denied to them because of their conditions are rapidly signing up in a state that has topped the list of most uninsured Americans for five years running.

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.

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44 comments
Julia Britt
Julia Britt

I didn't know that we had a choice (like congress)!

Lovett Belcher
Lovett Belcher

I would if I could. Not big on "waiting in line" cyber like or otherwise

jasonofthesea
jasonofthesea

I'll read any story with that dude's picture

trc6111
trc6111

For what it's worth, I've been trying for the better part of 2 days to log into the site without any luck. I think this is a bullshit propaganda story. 

gaijintx
gaijintx

For what it's worth, I ran into the issue with the security questions, too. It turned out to be an issue with Firefox, which I use as my default browser; once I switched over to Internet Explorer, it worked just fine.

Anse
Anse

I would never begrudge a wealthy man his Armani suits and his vacation houses, but when it comes to medical care I'm a 100% full-blown commie pinko. Nobody should get better health care than anybody else. Yes, if that means we must all be equally miserable, that's what it means. Libertarians can shove it.

RoosterMcGee
RoosterMcGee

Yeah, let the mediocre care begin for all!  Congratulations everyone...we are now just like Canada!

JefWithOneF
JefWithOneF topcommenter

@trc6111 It's not worth much, sorry. Have you tried IE? A friend said he had better luck than with Firefox.

RoosterMcGee
RoosterMcGee

@Anse ...totally disagree! Healthcare is just like everything else....you get what you pay for!

JefWithOneF
JefWithOneF topcommenter

@Anse I'm inclined to agree. Healthcare should be a right, not a luxury. . 

kathiemuncy1
kathiemuncy1

@RoosterMcGee - and you say that as if it is a bad thing?   Why even Sarah Palin took advantage of the Canadian healthcare system at one time.  Canada has a world class healthcare system that takes care of its citizens and is also known for being one of the nicest places to live so as far as I can see it is a win-win. 

Anse
Anse

@RoosterMcGee @Anse I repeat: if I can't afford heart surgery, you can't have heart surgery either. We either both die of heart failure or we figure out a way to both get the surgery. There is no other ethical way. I don't care what kind of longwinded diatribe you want to come back with, ethically, no other system can possibly be right. Enjoy your six course meals at Tony's, relax in your River Oaks mansion, but when you and I go to the doctor, we should be complete and utter equals. There is absolutely no justification for anybody getting better care than anybody else.

JefWithOneF
JefWithOneF topcommenter

@RoosterMcGee @Anse Healthcare is not just like everything else because you have almost zero control over what you'll need from the industry. 

RoosterMcGee
RoosterMcGee

@kathiemuncy1

Absolutely it's a bad thing! Canada has had horrible health care for decades! The reason why the US HAD the best healthcare in the world is because we pay for it, and we pay THEM! It's also the reason NOW that most Physicians over the age of 50 are retiring instead of continuing to practice. They are getting screwed, and so are we! I particularly feel bad for the fellows and residents who are just getting out of training and will be stuck with a nurse type salary. Like I said, let the mediocre care begin for all!

Anse
Anse

@eudemonist I would agree with that. But I'd also like to acknowledge that rich people tend to get what they want, and inequalities will undoubtedly always exist. But that's all the more reason to work for at a decent standard of care and education for all. Hospitals and doctors need to be in the same category as fire departments and law enforcement and public schools.

JefWithOneF
JefWithOneF topcommenter

@eudemonist No, we're saying there is a basic level of education that is expected in this country that we receive as part of the social contract as taxpayers, and healthcare should be the same way.

eudemonist
eudemonist

@JefWithOneF @Anse @RoosterMcGee Would you agree that no one should be allowed to get a better education than another?

Where do the actions of the individual come into play in this equation?  If your lunch every day is a bowl o' gravy and mine is a salad, how can it then be incumbent on the doctor to ensure you are as healthy as I?

There is no such thing as "free".

JefWithOneF
JefWithOneF topcommenter

@Anse @RoosterMcGee If we're able to agree that at least basic education should be free, why is healthcare such a jump?

JefWithOneF
JefWithOneF topcommenter

@RoosterMcGee @JefWithOneF @Anse Exactly.. that's what health insurance is for. To pay for the unpredictable. Which is why we're working to make sure everyone has it. Glad we got that cleared up. 

RoosterMcGee
RoosterMcGee

@JefWithOneF @RoosterMcGee @Anse ...that's what healthcare insurance is for!  You pay for what you get!  I'm 35 but have full healthcare insurance, just in case!  It's just like car insurance!  No difference at all!  It's simple!  You're trying to make it more complicated than it really is!

JefWithOneF
JefWithOneF topcommenter

@RoosterMcGee @JefWithOneF @AnseYou don't choose your disease, and in most cases you don't get to choose your treatment based on the cost. And you can't prepare through insurance because you have no idea if you're gonna break your back in an auto accident or get a specific cancer.


This is the idea that we have to start fighting, the silly notion that you can treat being sick like wanting a new smart phone. It's a completely different thing, and since most people have little to no control over how they'll get sick they should not be subjected to a free market model that does not apply.

JefWithOneF
JefWithOneF topcommenter

@RoosterMcGee @kathiemuncy1 Unless you have some objective facts on that I can't give it much weight. There's nothing I've seen that proves the law has had much of an impact on the health care industry or the quality of care besides exacerbating the primary care physician shortage that we've had for the last decade. 

RoosterMcGee
RoosterMcGee

@gaijintx @RoosterMcGee @kathiemuncy1 my wife is from Canada and I lived in London for 7 years.  People with life threatening diseaes over there or up there come here if they can afford it.  You're kidding yourself if you dont believe that. 

RoosterMcGee
RoosterMcGee

@kathiemuncy1 ...I work in healthcare, and I see first hand how bad it is, and what its done to our great healthcare system in the last 3 years.  I can only imagine what it will look like in another 3 years.  9 month wait for a physical?

gaijintx
gaijintx

@zoolemonopa @RoosterMcGee @JefWithOneF @kathiemuncy1 Yep, same for me -- we saw a company-wide increase of about $20, about like we've seen *every* year in the last seven that I've worked here.

I went on the exchange to see what we qualified for and got a range of plans, including some that were comparable to what I've got now but about $75 more a month (than *my* part of the premium, not overall). I'll be sticking with my company's plan, but it's nice to know that if I lose my job, I now have options besides paying insane amounts of money for COBRA, which is what I had to do last time I was laid off.

gaijintx
gaijintx

@RoosterMcGee @kathiemuncy1 Have you lived in Canada? I've got friends from there who live here and have nothing but good things to say about Canadian healthcare. Same goes for my British and Swedish relatives (all of which, btw, are pretty solidly working-class and tend to be conservative on other things). They think we're insane for paying as much as we do in taxes and *not* getting national healthcare.

JefWithOneF
JefWithOneF topcommenter

@Paul @JefWithOneF Pretty bare bones one from BCBS for a family of three. Nick Hodges is my agent. 713.993.9710. Good luck. 

Paul
Paul

@JefWithOneF How did you premiums only increase $5? Where did you look? And what type of plan do you currently have? 


kathiemuncy1
kathiemuncy1

@jefwithoneF - it is amazing at how many people have bought into the fear of this new law.  I would recommend that they actually talk to people who have gone without health coverage  for a while to see what they think.  There is nothing worse than worrying about your health or the health of a loved one when you can't get insurance and don't have the money to pay for care, especially catastrophic care - I know this from bitter personal experience.  I am glad to see that we have at least made baby steps towards reform and hopefully one day we will see universal or single payer coverage here in the United States

JefWithOneF
JefWithOneF topcommenter

@zoolemonopa @RoosterMcGee @JefWithOneF @kathiemuncy1 Most extreme case I know was a friend who said it went up $40... and she said that she was happy to pay that if it meant someone with no insurance could get it. I'm sorry, but I really don't see how there is any moral response to "Cancer survivor can finally get check-ups again" beyond "Good for her!"

zoolemonopa
zoolemonopa

@RoosterMcGee @JefWithOneF @kathiemuncy1 

Mine only went up $20 a month, but it goes up every year for me anyway.  Same coverage.  And please, this isn't socialism.  You can argue tyranny if you want, but liberals would rather have single-payer universal health care than obamacare, which itself is an improvement over what we had before.  Give it time and you'll see.

RoosterMcGee
RoosterMcGee

@JefWithOneF @RoosterMcGee @kathiemuncy1  ...not at all hard for me to grasp. What's hard for me to grasp is the fact that the other significant % (that had great healthcare before) is now paying an exorbitant amount higher so everyone can have mediocre healthcare. You know what that is called? Socialism!

JefWithOneF
JefWithOneF topcommenter

@RoosterMcGee @kathiemuncy1 This may be hard for you to grasp... but for a pretty significant portion of the population mediocre care is way better than what they had before, even if what you say is true. 

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