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Borderland clinics hit with high patient volume as Obamacare kicks in

By Crystal Price
EL PASO, Texas - Health providers in El Paso have seen a surge of new patient traffic as dozens of Borderland residents use their Obamacare insurance for the first time.

Summit Urgent Care in east El Paso has seen a spike in new patients since the new year.

"I think all the physicians in the city are feeling the increase in volume," said Michael Jacobs, a family nurse practitioner with Summit Urgent Care. "More people have insurance, more people have coverage."

Jacobs said emergency room visits in El Paso have increased 40 percent within the last month.

"We're seeing more of the 40 to 60 age group that have picked up insurance other than the young people, and that's because the initial first year fine is only $98," Jacobs said.

So far, Jacobs said health providers and patients alike are still working out the challenges that come with the new health plan.

"There are larger deductibles and the deductibles have changed in January for almost all plans, so we're seeing people almost paying more," Jacobs said.

However, they are taking steps to make the transition easier for new and returning patients.

"What we've done is we've simplified our forms and we're not asking for as much," Jacobs said.

At least 14,000 Texans have signed up for Obamacare.

While thousands of Obamacare applications are still pending, clinics and emergency rooms in the Borderland are expecting a 25 percent increase in volume in the coming weeks.

Jacobs added that the influx of patients will create an economic boom for the health industry in El Paso.

"If you provide a service, then the site services will expand too," Jacobs said. "So this should help everyone."

Mario Escajeda from Horizon City has three 20-something-year-old daughters that will be using Obamacare coverage very soon.

Two of Escajeda's daughters had no way of getting health care coverage before because their workplace does not offer it.

Escajeda said there's nothing more important to him than affordable health care coverage for his three daughters.

"You never know when an emergency is going to arise, and it's important that they do get insured," Escajeda said.

Open enrollment for health insurance under Obamacare ends on March 31, 2014.