First lady Michelle Obama visits Miami to promote Affordable Care Act

 
 
First Lady Michelle Obama hugs Affordable Care Act enrollee Terry Rutherford at the Jessie Trice Community Health Care Center in Miami, Wednesday, March 5, 2014.
First Lady Michelle Obama hugs Affordable Care Act enrollee Terry Rutherford at the Jessie Trice Community Health Care Center in Miami, Wednesday, March 5, 2014.
Luis M. Alvarez / AP

ldixon@MiamiHerald.com

First lady Michelle Obama returned to Miami for the second time in two weeks, stopping at the Jessie Trice Community Health Center Wednesday to encourage people to enroll in an insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act.

With less than four weeks left to enroll by the March 31 deadline, the Obama administration’s outreach and enrollment efforts have kicked into high gear with President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and other high-profile White House officials fanning out across the country.

In Miami, Michelle Obama joked that she just happened to be in the neighborhood and then spoke about getting people — especially young people and minorities — enrolled.

“In the African-American community, unfortunately, one in five of us are not insured,” she said, “and the numbers are no better in the Hispanic community.’’

Obama added that federally qualified health centers, such as the Jessie Trice Center, will play a key role in the future.

“Because of your work,’’ she said, “we've got four million people who have signed up for healthcare, and that is a milestone.’’

The first lady said that the average adult pays less than $100 a month for health insurance under the ACA.

“That's a pair of gym shoes. That's less than a cell phone bill,” she said.

Obama walked around speaking with four Certified Application Counselors, who sat at tables with individuals already enrolled in health plans and four others who had yet to sign up.

The counselors sat with computers, sifted through paperwork and helped consumers through the enrollment process on the healthcare.gov website.

Obama spoke with one counselor, Paul Salazar, who said it takes about 20 minutes to sign up one person. Obama stressed that those who have signed up should encourage others to do the same.

She also spoke to Vernon Twyne, who had already enrolled in a health plan, and Terry Rutherford, who was signing up Wednesday. Both said they did not have health coverage before the ACA passed.

The first lady greeted Rutherford with a hug and kiss and thanked Suzy Diogene, the counselor working with Rutherford, for “changing lives.”

“No one in this country should have to go without insurance, and now you don't have to,” Obama said.

The first lady also spoke to Allen Zullinger, a law student at Florida International University, who said he signed up for insurance after an automobile collision last December.

“Young people, you are not invincible,” Obama said. “Mr. Allen got hit by a car; he is now insured.”

With that, the first lady thanked the group for letting her “intrude” and then left.

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