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Obamacare is crucial for a mother of two with medical problems

October 01, 2013|By Alicia Banks and Ronald D. White
  • Annette Diaz holds her daughter Kayla Valenzuela and her son Johnie Valenzuela sleeps while Diaz meets with benefits advisor Maria Zavala at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood.
Annette Diaz holds her daughter Kayla Valenzuela and her son Johnie Valenzuela… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)

Annette Diaz, 26, waited quietly Tuesday morning at the health benefits resource center on the grounds of  St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood.

Diaz wanted help from her benefits counselor, Maria Zavala, with  receiving food stamps through the CalFresh program, but she also wanted to know everything about signing up for  Obamacare.

It was the first day Diaz could look into medical insurance enrollment through the Affordable Care Act. Open enrollment kicked off nationwide Tuesday, allowing Americans who don't receive coverage through an employer to shop for insurance in state-based healthcare marketplaces.

Full coverage: Obamacare rolls out

Diaz, who lives in Compton, cradled her 5-month-old son, Johnie Valenzuela, in her arms. Her 2-year-old daughter, Kayla Valenzuela, coughed every few seconds as she colored with a pen.

“She's getting a cold,” Diaz said. “They both went without medical insurance for two months.”
Diaz couldn't stay on her mother's insurance plan after she turned 26. Neither could her children. No insurance left Johnie without his medication for acid reflux.

Diaz, a warehouse worker for New Breed Logistics, said she could afford only vision and dental insurance for her children. Medical insurance was out of the question at a cost of $300 every two weeks.

“By the time you split up rent, gas and food, it comes down to making choices,” Diaz said. “I was lucky they  didn't get sick.”

Diaz said affordable medical insurance ensures healthy lives for her family,  including her eldest son, 7-year-old Gustavo Valenzuela, and her husband, Dionicio Valenzuela, who works at a jeans factory.

“He doesn’t have insurance,” Diaz said of her husband.

Kayla stretched her hands up as Diaz lifted her daughter onto her knees. The girl relaxed in one-piece pajamas decorated with smiling monkeys. Kayla's eyes lowered as her coughs waned.

Diaz called the act a “good idea.” She shrugged her shoulders about one stipulation under the act: penalties for uninsured Americans who don’t enroll.

“I don't think you should be penalized for it," Diaz said.

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