With enrollment into Obamacare to begin next week the spot-light Tuesday was put on Austin's music scene. A new assistance center at Highland Mall will play a supporting role in the sign up effort.
The Foundation Communities Obamacare enrollment center is located on the second floor of Highland Mall in what was a gift shop.
"And we're very excited to be providing the service and helping people figure out what's right for their situation," said Elizabeth Colvin with Project Manager with Foundation Communities.
The site will officially open October 1. That is when enrollment into the health care marketplace begins. In defense of the Affordable Care Act- Congressman Lloyd Doggett compared the program to funding military benefits.
"We have socialized medicine in Austin, it's called the Veterans outreach clinic," Doggett said.
The Austin Democrat made that comparison in an attempted swipe at Texas Senator Ted Cruz who is an outspoken Obamacare critic. Cruz, a Republican, was with Doggett recently at the opening of a new Austin VA clinic. After making his comment Tuesday, Congressman Doggett later urged potential clients to explore their options at the enrollment center and ignore all of the political debate in Washington.
"Well this is the place to cool down catch your breath and get some unbiased information," said Congressman Doggett.
The Highland Mall site will be open seven days a week. Foundation Communities, which specializes in providing financial assistance to low income families, will also use its south Austin office. The group's involvement is why St. David's awarded a $100,000 grant to open a third location.
"There is a great need not only to enroll people into this insurance program but there is great need to get the right information into the right boxes so they have a valid application," said St. David's Foundation CEO Earl Maxwell.
To open more enrollment centers St David's is also challenging other community groups to raise funding. Foundations Communities has trained about 70 counselors to work at the Mall and at its south Austin location. Several other non-profit groups in the Austin area will also help during the enrollment process. They include the Lone Star Circle of Care and People's Community Clinic. Its estimated as many as 100-thousand people are eligible in Travis County to sign up for Obamacare.
The goal is simple. Provide a reasonable alternative to getting free indigent care at a Hospital ER. For some in the Restaurant industry and performing arts, that may be a hard sell. Austin musician, Guy Forsyth, is an example of who could tap into the Obama-care marketplace. He changed his tune about insurance after becoming a father. Forsyth admits- younger musicians may not want to buy in.
"I think when I was 20 something, and had just moved to this town I probably wouldn't because most 20 year olds think they are immortal but I think most of the people in my demographic who have been doing this for a while understand the value of it and really understand the risk they take by not having insurance, and they all would, if they have the option choose to be insured because they know the tight rope they're walking," said Forsyth.
Tuesday President Obama seem to acknowledge that young people, initially, may not embrace the insurance idea, but he predicted that would change as more people sign up.
"When people can get high-quality affordable health insurance for less than their cell phone bill, they're going to sign up," said the President.
For those artists in Austin who may remain out of the insurance loop, the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians may be the only option other that a Hospital ER. That's why the organization was holding benefit concerts on Tuesday trying to raise money. But assistance from the non-profit is limited.