SAN ANTONIO – Despite months of efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, enrollment for a fifth year opens Wednesday. Local advocates face challenges, confusion and a much shorter time frame for signups.
"The chaos in D.C. has led some to believe that the ACA is already dead or may be in the very near future," said District 7 City Councilwoman Ana Sandoval.
Once insured through the government marketplace herself, the councilman is helping the EnrollSA coalition spread the word that so-called Obamacare is still the law.
"Nothing has changed," said Metro Health Director Dr. Colleen Bridger. "You still enroll at the same website, the same processes and subsidies are still in place."
The law may not have changed, but some things have.
The enrollment period is much shorter, cut from three months to 45 days.
Advertising dollars to help get the word out are almost non-existent, and funding is slashed for groups to assist with enrollment across the country.
Anel Trevino will be helping with local enrollment because she says coverage through ACA helped her through a tough time.
"I don't know how I would have done that," she said. "We're talking surgeons, hospital, medications."
Consumers shopping the federal health exchange, of which Texas is a part, will find the number of insurance providers is more limited. Several insurers dropped out of the ACA. For Bexar County, there are three insurance providers, although they are offering options by way of 27 different plans.
Premiums are also pricier. Subsidies for those who qualify are also increased.
Before ACA, 23 percent of Bexar County had no health insurance. Now, it's closer to 16 percent. According to county officials, 76,000 residents signed up for coverage through ACA in the first year. That number rose to more than 120,000 in 2016, but decreased to 113,600 for 2017.
Enrollment continues through Dec. 15. Area residents can sign up for a free appointment by calling 211 or 311 or by visiting its website.