The Hope Clinic in southwest Houston provides a medical safety net for the uninsured working poor, many of them new Asian immigrants.
Dr. Charu Sawhney is an internist there:
“I screamed ‘yes!’ and then I was just very grateful. Grateful for my patients. They are working Americans and they just don’t have enough money to get health insurance. And for them, the health insurance exchange will be a tremendous opportunity for them to finally be insured in Texas.”
Texas will now have to offer that exchange by 2014.
It’s a sort of public marketplace for people to shop for policies on their own.
But it’s unclear if Texas will also expand Medicaid coverage for low-income adults who previously were uninsured.
That was part of the law, but the Supreme Court decided that states can opt out of that, even though the federal government is paying for most of the cost.
Elena Marks is a health policy analyst at Rice University’s Baker Institute.
She says Texas politicians should think hard before turning down that option:
“Because when those monies are spent, not only are you getting healthcare for people who are otherwise unable to access care, but you’re also spending that money which is primarily federal money in the Texas economy, paying doctors, nurses.”
Even Houstonians who have insurance say they’re glad about the patient protections in the law:
“Oh, I’m ecstatic, I’m ecstatic.”
Clarissa Guidry owns a Montessori preschool in Sugarland.
“I’ve already seen just personally with my own coverage some positive things that have happened because of the Affordable Care Act. When I’ve gone in for preventative care, there’s been no co-pay, and that’s really helpful.”
Guidry also thinks the law will help her find some affordable coverage for her employees.
Scot More works with the homeless, and he has insurance.
But because he’s HIV positive, he worries what would happen if he lost his job.
Now the Court’s decision guarantees that insurers can’t reject him for his pre-existing condition.
“I, personally, am getting really tired of who I am and my health being a political tool. You know, I’m a person, I’m not a policy.”
Texas had joined 25 other states in suing to overturn the law.
Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott criticized the ruling. He says the individual mandate is an unfair new tax on all Americans.
“I am against this tax. And I will work with the state of Texas and members of Congress to repeal this unprecedented tax imposed on Texans.”
Houston city councilman Mike Sullivan is a conservative Republican.
Although he’s disappointed, he says the Court’s decision will now become a rallying cry in November:
“This does not let the air out of our balloon at all. I think it motivates and energizes the Republicans like never before.”
Even if the Texas legislature doesn’t expand Medicaid, almost 3 million uninsured Texans could get subsidized coverage through the health-care exchange.
From the KUHF Health and Science Desk, I’m Carrie Feibel.