Veronica Zaragovia

State Reporter

Veronica Zaragovia reports on state government for KUT News, and gets to team up with an extraordinary group of KUT journalists on how legislation affects the people of Texas. She's reported as a legislative relief news person with the Associated Press in South Dakota and has worked as a freelancer and intern with  the Agence France Presse, TIME, WDET Detroit public radio and PBS NewsHour, among others. She's dedicated much of her adult life to traveling, learning languages and drinking iced coffee. 

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HB2
3:07 pm
Thu April 10, 2014

Abortion Rights Groups Ask Appeals Court to Reverse Ruling on Texas Law

Abortion rights advocates filed a petition on April 10, 2014, asking the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider whether it’s constitutional to require abortion doctors to receive admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
Daniel Reese, KUT News

Abortion rights advocates have filed a petition asking a federal appeals court to reconsider its stance on a part of Texas' new abortion law.

The groups that filed the petition include the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights. They’re asking the full Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider whether it’s constitutional to require abortion doctors to receive admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinics.

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Education
5:49 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Update on Mexican-American Studies Course in Texas Public Schools

Supporters of a statewide standard for teaching Mexican-American studies in Texas spoke before a hearing of the State Board of Education on April 8, 2014.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Update: High schools in Texas are one step closer to getting state-funded materials to teach courses in Mexican-American studies after a vote today by the Texas State Board of Education. 

Board members voted to ask publishers to develop textbooks for Mexican-American studies, along with three other social studies courses: African-American, Asian-American and Native-American studies. But the board stopped short of developing a statewide course on the topics. A final vote is scheduled for later this week.

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Health
8:34 am
Mon April 7, 2014

Illegal Silicone Butt Injections Are Happening in South Texas

Elva Navarro, owner of the Bella Spa in McAllen, Texas, was arrested on March 19 after she allegedly gave her clients injections of liquid silicone, which are not approved by the FDA.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT

Update: South Texas spa owner Elva Navarro pleaded guilty at her trial on June 9, 2014 in a federal court in McAllen to injecting a liquid silicone substance into her clients. This allegedly took place at the Bella Face and Body Spa, also in McAllen.

Navarro could face up to three years in prison at her sentencing, expected to take place in August.

Original Story (April 7, 2014): A few weeks ago officials arrested a spa owner in the Rio Grande Valley for allegedly giving clients injections of liquid silicone – a procedure which is not approved by the FDA.

The injections were allegedly sold as sort of quick plastic surgery: buttocks enhancements. 

No one knows yet how many women in the Rio Grande Valley have gotten the illegal silicone injections. Investigators say the procedures have led to lengthy hospitalizations.

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Texas Abortion Law
6:18 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

Abortion Rights Advocates File Second Federal Lawsuit Against Texas Law

Hundreds of demonstrators rallied inside the Texas Capitol on July 12, 2013, as the Texas Senate approved new abortion restrictions. Abortion rights advocates have filed a new lawsuit challenging provisions of the law.
Gabriel Cristóver Pérez for KUT News

A new federal lawsuit is challenging provisions of Texas' newest abortion law. This latest suit comes less than a week after a federal appeals court ruled certain provisions of the law were constitutional and could stand.

Abortion rights advocates are seeking an immediate court order that would block the requirement that abortion doctors receive admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of a clinic. But in this lawsuit, the challenge to that provision only applies to two clinics: one in McAllen and one in El Paso.  

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SXSW Crash
4:43 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

SXSW Crash Survivor Hopes To Walk At High School Graduation

South by Southwest crash victim Mason Endres speaks with reporters about her recovery at St. David's Rehabilitation Hospital.
Jon Shapley for KUT News

One of the victims of the car crash into South by Southwest crowds is now in the rehab stage of her recovery. 

Mason Endres can now hop on one leg and push herself in a wheelchair. But she’s still learning to walk again.

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Affordable Care Act
4:22 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

Sebelius Blames Texas Opposition for State's Lagging Obamacare Signups

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius speaks in Austin on March 28, 2014, days before the deadline to sign up for health insurance through the federal marketplace.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was in Austin today, as part of the final push for people to sign up for health insurance ahead of a Monday deadline. She also came to urge Texas leaders to expand Medicaid eligibility. 

During her comments, Sebelius said although everything is bigger in Texas, having the highest rate of uninsured in the U.S. is nothing to boast about.

To chip away at the roughly 25 percent of Texans without health insurance, Sebelius renewed her call for Texas leaders to expand Medicaid eligibility.  

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Life & Arts
8:38 am
Fri March 28, 2014

App Teams Up with César Chávez Film to Tap Into Huge Hispanic Market

Pantelion Films

Update:

A version of the story below by KUT's Veronica Zaragovia aired on WBUR's Here & Now today. Listen to the story here.

Original story:

An English-language film about civil rights activist César Chávez is out in theaters today. It’s out at the same time as a smartphone app that translates the movie into Spanish in real time.

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Affordable Care Act
8:01 am
Fri March 28, 2014

Ahead of Obamacare Deadline, Austin Nonprofit Rushes to Help Last Minute Sign-Ups

Elizabeth Colvin of Insure Central Texas helps Obamacare consumers at the Foundation Communities Highland Mall center on March 27, 2014.
KUT

The White House says it’s reached its goal of getting six million people signed up for health insurance through the federal marketplace.

But so far, only a fraction of the uninsured in Texas has signed up.

A March 31 deadline looms to at least begin an application for health insurance. Most without insurance after the deadline will have to pay a tax penalty. To help people avoid that, nonprofits in Austin are keeping their doors open late to help last-minute customers.

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Affordable Care Act
8:56 am
Thu March 20, 2014

While Obamacare Signups Lag in Texas, Travis County Keeps Up Momentum

A field organizer with Insure Central Texas speaks to staff at an Austin tattoo parlor in the last few days before the March 31 deadline to sign up for health insurance.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Less than two weeks remain for people to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

Local groups are ramping up their efforts to remind people it's time to sign up or pay a tax penalty. And with little time left, groups working to sign people up for health insurance are branching out to find every last person they can.

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Aging in Texas
8:52 am
Mon March 17, 2014

South Texas Has Dozens of Adult Day Centers - and Austin Has Just One

At Mi Casa Adult Day Care Center in Mission, Texas, seniors and people with disabilities avoid spending the day home alone.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Seniors in the Rio Grande Valley’s Hidalgo County have dozens of day care centers to choose from – places that help keep seniors from spending the day home alone.

Centers like Mi Casa Adult Day Care in Mission, Texas – not far from McAllen – dot many street corners here in this part of the Rio Grande Valley. They offer rides to see the doctor, to pay bills or to pick up a social security check.

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SXSW 2014
8:25 am
Sun March 16, 2014

SXSW Crash Victim Gets a Hospital Room Show From a Favorite Band

Phoenix-based Jared & The Mill visited Mason Endres at St. David's Medical Center on March 15, 2014.

As of Sunday morning, seven people remain hospitalized from Thursday's fatal crash outside of the Mohawk on Red River Drive.

Six are at Seton, with two in critical condition. St. David’s HealthCare discharged one patient Saturday and now has just one patient left, 18-year-old Mason Endres. Mason has been surrounded by friends and family during her hospitalization, but on Saturday she got a surprise visit.

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Affordable Care Act
3:42 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

Nearly 300,000 Texans Now Have Health Insurance Through Federal Marketplace

In February 2014, almost 90,000 people in Texas enrolled in a health care plan through the federal marketplace. Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (pictured) has visited Texas often to promote the Affordable Care Act.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

More people in Texas are enrolling in private health insurance through the federal marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act. But hundreds of thousands remain uninsured in the state that leads the nation in the percentage of uninsured.

In Feburary, almost 90,000 people in Texas enrolled in a health care plan through the federal marketplace. That brings the total number of Texans enrolled to close to 300,000 since Oct. 1.

Most of those enrolled are between 55 and 64 years old. Roughly 10 percent are 18 to 25. The system depends on healthy, young people to sign up in order to help defer the costs of covering older people. 

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SXSW 2014
2:10 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

Latinos Welcome SXSW Spotlight, But Still Feel Marginalized (Update)

The first ever Latinos in Tech event, which took place on March 6, 2014, was founded by the Kapor Center and Esquivel McCarson Consulting.
Kety Esquivel/Esquivel McCarson Consulting

Update: KUT's Veronica Zaragovia's story on Latinos at SXSW Interactive aired on WBUR's Here and Now today. Listen to the conversation here.

Original story:  South by Southwest Interactive is underway in Austin. This year, there’s a focus on the Latinos innovation in tech – a field where many Latinos face significant barriers. 

When SXSW Interactive kicked off on Friday, people began discussing where Latinos stand in the tech world. Geographically, at least, they haven’t been at the center of SXSW events: the so-called Latinos in Tech sessions took place at a Holiday Inn about a mile from the Austin Convention Center.

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Abortion Law Lawsuit
9:04 am
Tue March 11, 2014

What the FDA Drug Guidelines Say in Texas' New Abortion Law

Texas’ new abortion law requires doctors to follow an FDA regimen for medication abortions – a regimen some doctors say is out-of-date.
Eric Schlegel, Texas Tribune

Texas’ new abortion law requires doctors to follow a specific, federally approved protocol for abortions performed using drugs, in place of a more common method.

The requirement is at issue in a case challenging the Texas law. So what exactly does the law require doctors to do?

Doctors usually have two choices for what are called medication abortions: They can follow a protocol approved by the Food and Drug Administration, or they can follow a different one based on newer scientific studies. But now in Texas, doctors are required to follow the FDA protocol. 

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Aging in Texas
8:39 am
Thu March 6, 2014

'Promotoras' Help Texas Border's Poorest Seniors Make Healthy Choices

Maria Luisa Aranda lives in a colonia in Progreso, a town near the Texas border.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Some of the poorest seniors in Texas live in Hidalgo County in the Rio Grande Valley.

Many only speak Spanish and don’t have access to the basics, like food or medical care. But a Texas A&M professor and his team of community health workers – or "promotoras de salud” – are trying to find ways to help seniors along the border improve those conditions. 

They're working in places like the colonia border town of Progreso, near the Mexican border. Progreso is  one of the poorest places in the one of the poorest counties in the United States. The unemployment rate is more than 10 percent.

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Aging in Texas
8:17 am
Mon March 3, 2014

How 'Golden Girls' Models the Future Of Senior Housing in Central Texas

From Miami to Austin: As the number of seniors living in Central Texas rises along with the cost of living, "The Golden Girls" is becoming a template for senior housing.

The number of seniors living in Central Texas is soaring – and so is the cost of living.

That’s making “The Golden Girls” far more than a funny '80s TV show. The show's shared-living arrangement could become a template for senior housing in cities like Austin.

Helene Frager says she dreamt she would live like Blanche, Sophia, Dorothy and Rose by now. "I always had this fear of growing old and alone. When I used to watch the program, 'The Golden Girls,' I said, ‘Hey, they’re not too bad! They have companionship, they have each other, they can talk about things," she says. 

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Texas
10:36 am
Thu February 27, 2014

What's Next For Texas After Same-Sex Marriage Ruling?

Texas officials are appealing a decision by a federal judge who ruled Texas' ban on same-sex marriage, and state laws barring recognition of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, are unconstitutional.
flickr.com/weho

Now that a federal judge has found Texas' ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, the state is appealing the ruling to a higher court. 

So what does this mean for the plaintiffs and the state?

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia wrote that even though states can regulate marriage, "Texas’ prohibition on same-sex marriage conflicts with the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process."

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Women's Health
7:34 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Stance On Texas Women's Health Program Depends On Party Affiliation

Abortion-rights activists took part in an event with Democratic lawmakers at the Texas State Capitol on Feb. 20, 2014.
Sam Ortega, KUT

Women's healthcare has been a political seesaw in the Texas legislature the last few years -- from budget cuts in 2011 to budget increases in 2013.

Yesterday a Texas Senate committee heard how women's health programs were doing, with the answer falling along party lines.

State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, says Texas has never spent as much on women’s health as it does right now, and she says she wanted to "set the record straight" during a hearing of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee -- the committee she chairs.

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Affordable Care Act
4:50 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

Even Texans With Health Insurance Struggle to Afford It, Study Suggests

Texas still has the highest rate of uninsured people in the U.S. The Health Reform Monitoring Survey-Texas report says even some people with health insurance are struggling to pay for it.
healthcare.gov

Texas still has the highest rate of uninsured people in the country, about one in four, and a new survey, the Health Reform Monitoring Survey-Texas report, suggests even some people with health insurance are struggling to pay for it.  

The report looked at how Texans were feeling in September about health care and insurance just before the Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplace launched. Vivian Ho, an economist with Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, helped produce the report. She says they're trying to measure the impact of the health care law in Texas.

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Abortion
8:50 am
Wed February 19, 2014

What It Takes For Texas Abortion Doctors To Get Admitting Privileges

Texas abortion doctors must receive admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. The process is lengthy and complex.
Spencer Selvidge/KUT

Houston doctor Theodore Herring Jr. had his license temporarily suspended last week, after he was found to have violated a new state law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

That provision is among the ones under review by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. While the law is tied up in that court, abortion doctors in Texas are still required to follow it – meaning they need admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic.

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