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Thursday, March 13, 2014 - 12:00am
El Paso, TX (KDBC) — A looming deadline to get insured under the Affordable Care Act is just around the corner and officials, both nationally and locally, are scrambling to get more people signed up.
According to a new report released by the federal government, 4.2 million Americans have enrolled so far and the Obama administration is hoping that number will hit 6 million by the March 31st deadline.
"Culturally, this area of the state really looks at making sure that they understand health insurance and how it works, working with two different countries. So, we do have some cultural barriers we've kind of run into with this enrollment area," said Sylvia Garcia, a representative with the United States Department of Health and Human Services, visiting El Paso on Wednesday.
The national push for enrollment has quickly trickled down to El Paso.
Organizations like "Enroll El Paso" and "Project Amistad" have collectively enrolled around 2,000 people and say that number is still growing.
When the government first launched the HealthCare.gov website, Project Amistad says they had high hopes for enrollment numbers. But their goals hit a snag when there were glitches with the site.
Now, they're trying to make up for lost time by pushing more El Pasoans to sign up before it's too late.
"My experience with the navigators has been efficient. The process was quick and they've been very friendly and have explained everything to me in detail," said Elisabeth Saenz.
"I work at the nail salon and they don't give me the insurance for health care so I definitely need it," said Kieumy Ho.
Project Amistad says out of 178,000 uninsured El Pasoans, only about 24,000 actually qualify for ACA, and of that number, about 6000 people in El Paso County have signed up so far.
"Although it may seem like it's a low number, when you consider the fact that a lot of people aren't going to qualify to receive the benefits under the Affordable Care Act, that number is actually, we're very close to meeting our goals," said Roy Ortega, the Community Relations Manager at Project Amistad.
As of March 1st in Texas, 295,000 residents had bought insurance through the ACA - 57% are women and 43% are men, and 27% are between the ages of 18 to 34 years old.
In New Mexico, 15,012 people have signed up - 56% are women and 44% are men, and 20% are between the ages of 18 to 34 years old.
If you don't sign up for health insurance by March 31st, Project Amistad says each person in your household will be fined $95 or 1% of your total family income when you file your taxes in 2015.
The second year, the fine increases to $325 per person in your household or 2% of your total family income.
By the third year with no coverage, you face a penalty of $625 or 2.5% of your total family income.
More than 12 local groups have come together and organized what they call the 'biggest' sign-up event yet for El Pasoans on Saturday, March 15th at the Centro San Vicente Alameda Clinic at 8061 Alameda Avenue from 9a.m. to 5p.m.
Organizers say you should bring your social security number, government ID and residency documents, and proof of income.
For more information, you can contact Project Amistad at (915) 532-3415 or Enroll El Paso at (915) 206-2121.