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United Way to educate El Pasoans about Affordable Care Act

Updated: Friday, August 16 2013, 10:38 PM MDT

By: Bill Melugin
EL PASO, Texas -- Parts of the Affordable Care Act are set to go into effect on Oct. 1, and the United Way of El Paso said it wants to make sure everyone in the Sun City knows what their options are when it comes to choosing their healthcare.

Deborah Zuloaga, the CEO of United Way, told KFOX14 the organization will be leading a program called the "Enroll El Paso Coalition."

The Coalition received a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services to help uninsured El Pasoans figure out which insurance options are available to then when the law goes into effect.

"We want to make sure that all El Pasoans better understand exactly what is available, and what are their opportunities and options, that come with the Affordable Care Act," Zuloaga said.

The program will hire people called "navigators" to offer unbiased, in person help to people about insurance, health, and public programs.

"The navigators will not be making recommendations, they will just be letting people know about what options are out there, it's up to individuals to make those decisions," Zuloaga said.

One of the biggest decisions people will face is whether they want to buy health insurance or take the penalty.

KFOX14 went around the UTEP campus to ask students what they know about Obamacare, and what they plan to do.

"The little bit that I know about Obamacare is he's trying to make the citizens provide their own medical insurance, pay it on their own, however, a lot of Americans cannot afford health care on their own, so it's going to be a big mess for the economy and the citizens of the United States," said Dayan Saenz.

"My personal plan is to have them penalize me, because I can't provide it myself due to the fact that I'm a full-time student, I'm unemployed, I'm simply going to tell them no, I can't afford it, I'll get penalized for it."

Saenz feels the public was not educated enough about the changes the law will bring.

"The government is doing an awful job informing its citizens, citizens should be more concerned about what this health care is going to be. The only ones getting affected are us, the citizens who pay taxes, not them because they can afford their own insurance," Saenz said.

International student Alime Jaimes said she does plan to buy health care, but she doesn't know how she will afford it.

"That's one of the problems I have, I think medical healthcare in the U.S. is very complicated, and I cannot afford medical care," Jaimes said. "What I know is that if I don't have medical care I'm going to get penalized."

Others weren't sure what to think about the law, and admitted they knew next to nothing about it.

"I don't know a lot, just that it's going to be a requirement in 2014 I believe, but as far as the details, like what the penalties are, I'm not really sure," said Marco Quiroz. "I'll probably look into it more as the deadline approaches."

"I heard about the law in the election campaign and that's it, some people say its good, some people say its bad, so that's all I know," said Mohammed Hozzein.

The program is expected to launch within the next two weeks.

A recent report by the Center For American Progress listed El Paso in the 30 worst counties in the country when it comes to health care coverage. It remains to be seen if Obamacare can turn that trend around.

United Way to educate El Pasoans about Affordable Care Act

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