Texas officials have not been hospitable to the Affordable Care Act.
The state declined to set up an insurance marketplace of its own, and chose not to expand Medicaid to the poorest adults.
And today in Austin, state regulators held a hearing on new rules that would more tightly control federal insurance counselors who are trying to help people sign up for new plans under the law.
“If they’re eligible they absolutely should sign up for healthcare. This is an historic opportunity. For the first time a lot of people in the so-called individual market who have not had affordable coverage in their workplace can qualify for a tax subsidy based on a level of income, so they have a share paid of their health insurance.”
But because Texas officials did not expand Medicaid, residents who make below the poverty level are not eligible for those tax subsidies.
Sebelius said it wasn’t too late for Texas to reconsider that decision.
Congressman Al Green agreed:
“I think that it is sinful that in the state of Texas we have not accepted the Medicaid money. We’re talking about $100 billion ... that money is needed by people in my district. People need Medicaid in my district.”
A few people who had just bought insurance on HealthCare.gov appeared at the press conference. Anna Lee Ray is 26 and has a part-time retail job with no benefits.
She moved to Houston after working in the Middle East for many years.
“I actually wasn’t so driven to get insurance myself because I’m like one of these young people that thinks I’m young and healthy and I don’t need insurance.”
But Ray says her parents pushed her to get covered and she was actually pleased with the prices she found.
“I’m kind of eking by each month and it’s unattractive to have another bill to pay but it’s far better I think to have to worry about paying a bill than to have to worry about getting sick or having something terrible happen.”
The next critical deadline is Monday. If you sign up by then on HealthCare.gov, you can get coverage that starts January first.
However, open enrollment will continue through March for 2014 plans.