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Health insurance marketplace bogged down opening day

By Elena Watts
Oct. 1, 2013 at 5:01 a.m.

Christina V. Lopez, 64, was first to arrive Tuesday at the community health center to enroll for benefits through the Affordable Care Act's health insurance marketplace.

By the end of the day, she was still waiting to enroll.

Sonia Del Bosque, outreach and enrollment specialist for the Victoria Community Health Center, was unable to help Lopez on the opening day because the website was bogged down.

"I'm excited; it's so busy that I can't get in," Del Bosque said. "But I couldn't enroll her."

Erin Snyder, advanced resolution center representative with the health insurance marketplace, could not answer questions about the sluggish enrollment process but said another representative would respond. But by 6:30 p.m., no one had responded to the questions.

"There are people who need assistance," said Patricia Zatopek, Lopez's cousin who has her medical power of attorney. "They have no voice."

At 7:30 a.m., Zatopek, 66, of Victoria, arrived with Lopez at the community health center.

Lopez, a breast cancer survivor of Victoria who raises her 15-year-old grandson, has been without health insurance since her husband, a Vietnam veteran, died more than a year ago.

As a result, her abscessed tooth, hypertension and arthritis have gone untreated.

"I received a call from her in May that they were cutting off her water and electricity," Zatopek said.

Lopez can read and speak English but has a learning disability and is deaf in one ear.

Zatopek has tried to find resources for her cousin since she learned about her difficulties.

However, all of her applications for assistance have been denied because Lopez earns too much money.

She receives an $800 survivor's pension through the military and $79 in food stamps monthly as well as a $450 survivor's pension per month for her grandson, whose father died.

Zatopek and the Community Action Committee have helped offset water, electricity, rent and medical expenses for Lopez in the meantime.

The county health department told Lopez to enroll in the health insurance marketplace Oct. 1 to qualify for early Medicare benefits by November or December.

Del Bosque plans to contact Lopez and Zatopek when she has access to the online enrollment process.

"It's been a blessing to have a different perspective," Zatopek said. "I'm lucky to have Medicare and retirement."

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