Even as the United States government shut down over a deadlock in Congress regarding the continued funding of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, the insurance exchanges created by the law that allow private citizens to shop for plans that will cover them despite pre-existing conditions opened for business Monday morning. The online servers and even some phone operators themselves occasionally locked up under the flood of people seeking coverage, but many people in Houston were still able to secure new plans -- some of them for the first time in years.
"Who benefits from Obamacare?" asked Martha Vasquez-Delgado on Facebook. "Me, I have a pre existence condition called Multiple Sclerosis, my medications are $4000 a month. Yes, a fucking month .And we just switched insurance. Thank you, President Obama. And forget you opposers."
One person who has been avidly waiting for this day for years is Alexis Kidd, the wife of legendary Houston punk rocker Christian Kidd of The Hates. Christian is retired from his day job working for the City of Houston, and receives a small healthcare package as part of his pension. Alexis, sadly, was never able to be added because of her history with mesothelioma, a rare cancer that attacks the protective lining of many of the body's internal organs.
Though Alexis's cancer has been in remission for years, they've been waiting in fear of its return while the years between the passage of the ACA and the day that she could no longer be denied affordable coverage to treat her disease passed slowly. Aid came from private sources, such as Wish Upon a Wedding, which provides financial help to couples seeking to marry but whose funds are tied up with treatments, and Dream Rooms Furniture, which donated $1,500 to the Kidds after a successful Facebook like campaign.
Alexis found the signup online glitchy. A section that asked her to pick security questions had no options. Even when she attempted to call and speak to a representative in person, she wasn't able to completely finish the process as the system continued to have issues, locking up from so many people signing up.
"I know that on the first day of anything new, there can and will be trouble," said Alexis. "Working for a software company taught me that. In a way, it is kind of a good thing that people are genuinely interested in looking to see for themselves what Obamacare can do to help them...at this point, almost any kind of insurance is better than the nothing many of us have now."
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Author Joni Rodgers (Bald in the Land of Big Hair, a cancer survivor, is also among those who enthusiastically signed up for the ACA insurance exchanges. For years she'd either been turned down flat for coverage or offered coverage at $1,400 to $1,600 a month. Using the exchanges, she was able to find a plan for only $240 a month that can cover her when her husband retires.
"It was actually okay with them that before today, my choices were to die, leave the country or divorce my husband of 30 years to protect his retirement savings," said Rodgers. "That was not okay with Barack Obama. I am incredibly grateful to him for fighting this fight on my behalf."
The fight to defund or delay Obamacare continues to rage in Congress, with no signs of progress at the time of this writing. Despite the wrangling at the top, though, those who were targeted by the law to receive health care previously denied to them because of their conditions are rapidly signing up in a state that has topped the list of most uninsured Americans for five years running.