In a former storefront in Central Austin’s Highland Mall, a health care enrollment center is getting set up.
It’s one of dozens of centers in Texas where certified application counselors will help answer people's questions about buying health insurance via the new federal marketplace.
This center will open next Tuesday, Oct. 1, when enrollment in the federal health insurance marketplace begins. It will be operated by Foundation Communities, which helps low-income people with their tax returns.
That's why Earl Maxwell, CEO of St. David’s Foundation, thinks they're fit to help people sign up, because consumers must provide income information to see if they qualify for a tax credit.
"There’s a great need not only to enroll people in this insurance program but there’s a great need to help them get the right information in the right boxes so they have a valid application," Maxwell said.
He announced that the foundation will donate up $100 thousand for a third center in East Austin. It's slated to open in November. If they identify a need for a fourth and fifth one, St. David's Foundation is willing to participate in a challenge grant. They'd put in another $100,000 if people in the community donate just as much.
At each of these centers, people can ask certified application counselors questions to help them enroll in an insurance plan. They’re counselors, not navigators, because the federal government is not funding the training.
At the Highland Mall center, Congressman Lloyd Doggett, an Austin Democrat, addressed the "noise in Washington. I have very strong feelings about this. Sen. [Ted] Cruz has very strong feelings about this. What you need to find out is, what difference does it make to you?"
For anyone with questions, the centers will be open 7 days a week.