Romy Owens doesn't post in all capital letters on Facebook often.
But a celebration was in order.
“I HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN ELEVEN YEARS!” the Oklahoma City artist wrote on Monday afternoon.
And that health insurance was all of $16 a month.
“It's very easy to look at this poverty-stricken population that doesn't have health care and think that we're irresponsible, and I don't think I'm irresponsible,” she said. “I just think it's really hard to get by.”
Owens, a 43-year-old Oklahoma City artist, is one of hundreds of Oklahomans who have selected health insurance plans through the federally run marketplace.
Between Oct. 1 and Nov. 30, an estimated 1,673 Oklahomans have selected health insurance plans through the federally run marketplace, according to federal government data.
The U.S. Health and Human Services Department on Wednesday announced that, nationwide, about 365,000 people selected health insurance plans from the state and federal marketplaces between Oct. 1 and the end of November, according to the report.
Enrollment in the federal marketplace in November was more than four times greater than October's reported federal enrollment number, according to HHS.
The federal marketplace created through the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, launched Oct. 1. The deadline to enroll for coverage is Dec. 23 in order to have coverage begin Jan. 1.
This report comes after the October report showed low enrollment in several states. During October, only 346 Oklahomans had selected a health insurance plan through the marketplace.
The low enrollment was largely attributed to the difficulties that people had using HealthCare.gov. The website had several kinks and thousands of people struggled to get through on the site.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said on Wednesday that the jump in enrollment is proof that those kinks have been worked out.
“More and more Americans are finding that quality, affordable coverage is within reach and that they'll no longer need to worry about barriers they may have faced in the past — like being denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition,” she said. “Now is the time to visit HealthCare.gov, to ensure you and your family have signed up in a private plan of your choice by Dec. 23 for coverage starting Jan 1. It's important to remember that this open enrollment period is six months long and continues to March 31, 2014.”
Trouble at first
When Owens first tried to sign up, she couldn't through the website. But Monday, she signed up and chose a health insurance plan in about 20 minutes.
She went with the silver plan, which covers 70 percent of her expenses and comes with a $500 deductible. It's one of five types of plans available on the marketplace.
It was originally more than $200 a month, but her anticipated 2014 yearly income of $14,000 allows her to qualify for financial assistance that will reduce that bill to $16 a month.
About five years ago, she looked into coverage and figured out it would have been about $300 each month through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma. The plan she selected through the marketplace is through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma, as well.
Owens plans to use her coverage, which starts Jan. 1, to get a Pap smear, which tests for cervical cancer, and maybe a mammogram.
“When you're trying to figure out how to pay your bills, health insurance is the first to go,” she said. “You need food, and by law you have to have insurance for your car.”