Affordable Care Act Insurance Marketplaces Get Set To Open

Sep 13, 2013

Texas Matters: As we quickly approach the opening of the online marketplaces tied to the Affordable Care Act on Oct. 1, community organizations are promoting enrollment while those opposed to the law continue their fight against it. Also: Will there be political fallout in the state for not expanding Medicaid under the ACA? And why Texas has become the "Wild West" for electronic cigarettes.

Here it comes, get ready Texas

Despite the best efforts of the state’s leadership, the health care rollout is coming to Texas and outreach efforts are now under way to get the word out to the people who need it the most.

The nation’s biggest recipient of federal dollars to promote the new health care changes is in Texas at the United Way of Tarrant County, who used their $5.9 million to hire health "navigators" to help Texans sign up for health insurance thru the exchanges. The nonprofit is the lead organization of a group that covers about 220 of the 254 counties in Texas.

Tim McKinney is the president of the United Way of Tarrant County.

"The grant has a goal that statewide we will have 55,200 face-to-face meetings over the enrollment period from Oct. 1 through March 31. And we will touch around 450,000 people in the form of town hall meetings and things like that... The eligibility requirements are: You have to be under 65, and your income can be in the range of 100 percent to 400 percent above the poverty level. So those are the people who the exchange is geared to."

Resistance continues, White House touts success

Today the White House trumpeted what they are calling a success for the new program. A new report released by the Department of Health and Human Services shows that 6.8 million consumers saved an estimated $1.2 billion on health insurance premiums in 2012 due to the "rate review" provision of the ACA.

White House officials said the ACA continues to bring scrutiny to proposed health insurance rate increases and is saving consumers real money as a result.

Buttons laid out at the community event on the West Side encourage people to "get covered."
Credit David Martin Davies / TPR News

Also today, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, announced that he is sponsoring an amendment to delay both the employer and the individual ACA mandates. In a prepared release, Cornyn said:

"As we have seen with delay after delay – the president has acknowledged that a significant portion of his health care law is broken. It is critical that we prevent this broken law from harming Americans."

A leading Texas conservative think tank is also critical of the the health care exchanges.

John Davidson of the Texas Public Policy Foundation explains why:

"The main reason to be suspicious about the rollout of Obamacare is that we believe it will drive up the cost of health care -- specifically the health care plans offered on the exchanges... We believe because of regulations and rules on insurance companies within the law that these plans are going to be quite a bit more expensive than what a person on the individual market could purchase right now."

*Under the ACA, no one is required to purchase insurance through the exchanges, though you will if you are hoping to qualify for the federal subsidy on health coverage. Those looking at purchasing insurance may still do so on the open market and are encouraged to shop around for the best price.

Also on this episode of Texas Matters:

Will there be political fallout for not expanding Medicaid in Texas?

It is impossible to talk about the ACA without bringing up politics. The party lines are not blurred here, at least not in Texas, which is another reason why the stakes are so high in the rollout of the ACA.

Harvey Kronberg of the online Quorum Report says political miscalculations about health care have cost Texas Republicans before -- when they resisted federal government expansion of children's health care in the early 2000s -- but any fallout from the ACA could take a while.

"I'm doubtful it's going to have much of an impact this election cycle because we haven't seen dramatic results from states that are participating -- and this is also the second election after a firmed-up map. While Republicans may lose a couple of seats, it's usually the middle of the decade where redistricting starts to fray and you combine that with the fact that -- if you end up with high satisfaction levels from other states -- it could prove to be a salient election in elections to come."

E-Cigarettes taking off in Texas

One way to lower health care costs is to convince more people to kick the smoking habit -- that’s why we don’t see the Marlboro Man pushing tobacco on TV anymore -- but now you will find other familiar faces flaunting electronic cigarettes.

National sales of e-cigarettes have caught fire -- doubling in 2012 -- and as North Texas Public Radio KERA’s Lauren Silverman reports the industry expects to sell a billion dollars in e-cigarettes this year.