McALLEN, RGV – The Rio Grande Valley is one of the first stops on a national “Countdown to Get Covered” bus tour and Mimi Garcia is on board.

Garcia is Texas state director of Get Covered America, the nation’s leading enrollment coalition working to ensure the success of the Affordable Care Act. The tour bus will be at McAllen Public Library at 10 a.m. on Wednesday. Staff with Congressmen Rubén Hinojosa and Henry Cuellar will also be on board the bus.

Garcia said the bus tour designed is to help raise the profile of the affordable health coverage and financial assistance to pay for insurance that’s available. She said it is important uninsured Texans get the coverage they need. March 31 is the deadline to enroll in health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

“The Rio Grande Valley is one of the first stops on this tour, as a place where nearly one in three people of working age and younger are uninsured,” Garcia told the Guardian. “We’re excited to come and help get out the word in local communities about the insurance options ahead of folks.”

The Countdown to Get Covered bus will be at McAllen Public Library at 10 a.m. on Wednesday.
The Countdown to Get Covered bus will be at McAllen Public Library at 10 a.m. on Wednesday.

Garcia said that about half of Texas qualifies for CHIP, Medicaid, or financial assistance within the new Health Insurance Marketplace, and that more than eight out of ten Texans enrolling so far have qualified for financial help and tax subsidies that reduce the cost of their health insurance. “Also, since two-thirds of enrollees selected a Silver-level plan, we can anticipate that many who enrolled will see additional savings in the form of cost-sharing reductions as they use their health care.”

Jose Medrano is Valley field organizer for Get Covered America. “The RGV Enroll America organizing team is pleased to have our state director, Mimi Garcia accompanied by Anne Filipic, president of Enroll America, Filipic at the Get Covered America Bus Stop Tour at McAllen Library, tomorrow,” Medrano told the Guardian. “This is an opportunity to remind our community about the March 31 deadline. The public is invited.”

Medrano and his colleagues in Get Covered America, along with various navigator groups had a great day signing people up for health insurance in Brownsville last Saturday.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released new data on enrollment numbers on Tuesday. It will be the last such data released before the March 31 deadline to enroll. “As more Americans learn just how affordable marketplace insurance can be, more are signing up to get covered,” said Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary, in a call announcing the enrollment data. “We expect that even more will sign up as we approach the March 31 deadline.”

The Countdown to Get Covered bus tour started in Houston on Tuesday and will take in six Texas cities. Garcia said the bus will also include elected officials, faith leaders, community partners, organizers and volunteers. She said it will appear at enrollment fairs, canvasses, phone banks, community events, schools, and even the SXSW Festival to rally volunteers and encourage people to enroll in coverage.

“Each of the 295,025 Texans who have enrolled in coverage gained the security of quality health insurance, and we’re pleased to see coverage increase here in the state with the highest rate of uninsured,” Garcia said. “We always anticipated that a lot of Texans would wait until the last minute before the March 31 deadline to enroll and sure enough there has been nearly a 150 percent increase in enrollment since the end of last year.”

After stopping in McAllen, the Countdown to Get Covered bus tour will travel through San Antonio, Austin, Waco and Dallas. It will then go to Ohio on March 19.