Insurers And Austin Mayor Promote Obamacare To Texas Latinos : Shots - Health News It's no secret that most state and federal legislators in Texas aren't fans of Obamacare. But insurers and Texan cities are successfully marketing plans on without the state's help.

Insurers And Austin Mayor Promote Obamacare To Texas Latinos

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Sunday is the deadline to sign up for insurance for 2015 under the Affordable Care Act. In Texas, hundreds of thousands of people have already signed up for health insurance this year. From member station KUT, Veronica Zaragovia reports that as this deadline approaches, there's a big push to enroll Latinos in the state by both city governments and also private insurers.

VERONICA ZARAGOVIA, BYLINE: At a Target store in San Antonio, a generator powers a massive blue RV.

EDNA PEREZ VEGA: We want to meet people where they are, where they live and where they shop.

ZARAGOVIA: Edna Perez Vega is spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas. The company has a tent set up with a slogan on it in Spanish. It reads, the road to medical coverage starts here. And it's repeated in English below in a smaller font. People can pick up pamphlets in either language says Perez Vega.

VEGA: This is south Texas and a lot of our community prefers to receive information in both languages.

ZARAGOVIA: People can also sign up for a plan inside the RV. That convenience factor drew Yvonne Garcia to the tent before walking into Target. She tells insurance agent Carlos Guerra she's a contract worker without health benefits.

YVONNE GARCIA: So I need to purchase them on my own.


GARCIA: If I go through my husband's work, it's extremely expensive.

GUERRA: OK. So you want me to make a quote for you? And...

GARCIA: Can we do that?

GUERRA: Of course.

ZARAGOVIA: Blue Cross is taking its efforts on the road across south Texas. The goal is to get people who qualify for coverage through the federal health insurance marketplace onto one of those plans. Many of those customers qualify for tax subsidies. More than 900,000 Texans have signed up so far this year, about 200,000 more people than last year.


MAYOR STEVE ADLER: Hola, Austin. Soy Steve Adler.

ZARAGOVIA: Steve Adler is mayor of the Texas city of Austin.



ZARAGOVIA: He and a translator announce an enrollment event at Austin City Hall. Even though Texas' state government still opposes a health law, Adler says the city's doing more this year to keep enrollment numbers growing.

ADLER: I think this city needs to continue to do what's necessary to ensure that its population is insured. And right now, spending our resources to help get people insured ultimately reduces the tax burden on its citizens.

ZARAGOVIA: The city is funding a couple of nonprofits that reach out to Latinos. Latino HealthCare Forum is one of them. Frank Rodriguez, its executive director, says unlike last year, enrollment events are taking place downtown at city hall, and he's excited.

FRANK RODRIGUEZ: We felt like we need to be downtown to really do some outreach with the service industry workers - the folks that work at restaurants, the construction workers.

ZARAGOVIA: But despite city funding for outreach, about $300,000 altogether, Rodriguez knows Latinos are hard to reach.

RODRIGUEZ: This is still a chronic, long-term issue for the community, and we're going to have to keep working on it.

ZARAGOVIA: Back at the Target in San Antonio, Yvonne Garcia comes out of the Blue Cross RV after almost an hour. She didn't qualify for subsidies. She did sign up for health insurance.

GARCIA: We just by chance came to do some shopping and - wow. I said, oh, my God. I told my husband I'm going to have to get it.

ZARAGOVIA: Blue Cross is taking its RV to cities including Corpus Christi, Laredo and Brownsville. Those areas are heavily Latino and uninsured. For NPR News, I'm Veronica Zaragovia in Austin.

GREENE: Veronica's story was produced as part of the USC Annenberg California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships.

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