More than a dozen volunteer-staffed centers operated across Central Texas Tuesday to educate people about the federal health insurance marketplace which opened earlier in the day.
Daniela Ruiz stopped by the location at the Highland Mall to learn more about the new access. She and her husband have been without health insurance for the past year.
While their child—who Dianela now stays home to care for—is covered under CHIP, Ruiz and her husband are currently vulnerable.
"So far, so good,” she said. “Thankfully we're healthy people, but you always have that fear, 'What if you get into an accident?'"
That uncertainty pushed her to learn more about the process to get private insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
Ruiz knows that health insurance will very soon be mandatory, but she has other motivations as well.
"We would like to have a bigger family, but under the old law, no private health insurance was required to offer any maternity benefit," she said.
That's no longer the case now that customers can't be turned away for any preexisting condition. Because so many people were trying to access Healthcare.gov at the same time Tuesday, the system was overwhelmed, meaning Ruiz had to wait to find out exactly what she'll have to pay.
Centers like the one at the Highland Mall will be open seven days a week to help people sign up. According to federal estimates, Central Texans should have about 76 different plans to choose from.
"It's just nice to have options," Ruiz said.