Marina Saenz Luna of the Rio Grande Valley in southeast Texas was trained to help others navigate the health insurance Marketplace, but wrote in The Daily Yonder, which covers rural America, that she had to overcome her own fear of dealing with the healthcare system before she could enroll.
As she worked for a local non-profit to offer assistance in enrollment in health insurance via the federal website HealthCare.gov, Luna said many families in the valley were fearful when it came to healthcare.
They were fearful of losing what they had, of choosing the wrong kind of policy, of signing up for the wrong thing, of how much it would cost, and fearful of the fines.
Luna said when she told her mother, a federal employee for 40 years who keeps up with the news and has taught herself to use technology, that she was a Marketplace navigator her mother's first comment was: "I heard we're going to have to pay a fine."
"My mother has had health insurance for many years and upon hearing about the Affordable Care Act, she had an intense fear. She felt threatened that her health insurance -- along with the disability income that my father receives -- was going to be taken away," Luna wrote in The Daily Yonder. "She thought that she would have to buy health insurance that would be too expensive for her and was going to have to pay a fine if she did not choose this new mythical expensive coverage."
Families and individuals most likely to not currently have health insurance were the most likely to have incomplete information, misinformation and little access to computers, Luna wrote.
"During an enrollment event, I heard story after story from students and older adults. I got asked what would happen to their Medicaid, Medicare, their current insurance plans. They feared having their most basic coverage taken away. And they were confused by what they had heard from the media," Luna wrote.
With many not understanding the process, the insurance plans, the website, people will pay fines until they run out of money, Luna said.
"They will file for an exemption before they even know about their coverage options. And more terrifying, they will not get medical attention when they need it, even when they do have coverage, because they won't understand how to use it."
Luna said she admitted she was terrified of the overwhelming process of selecting an insurance provider even though she was tech savvy, owned a laptop and was trained as a navigator.
However, to her own surprise, she created an account on Healthcare.gov, verified her identify, browsed and saved healthcare plan options in about 33 minutes.
"I spent more time making excuses than I did starting the process," Luna acknowledged.