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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Abortion Law Lawsuit
6:48 am
Tue October 22, 2013

Plaintiffs Hope Judge Rules Parts of Texas Abortion Law Unconstitutional

L-R: Amy Hagstrom Miller of Whole Woman's Health, Janet Crepps of The Center for Reproductive Rights and Sarah Wheat of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas speak to reporters after day one of the abortion lawsuit hearing on Oct. 21, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT

A lawsuit attempting to block parts of a new restrictive abortion law is expected to wrap up today. Plaintiffs hope the judge will find certain provisions of the law unconstitutional. 

Plaintiffs -- including Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, Whole Woman's Health and the Center for Reproductive Rights -- are challenging two key provisions of the abortion law, arguing each creates an undue burden on women seeking an abortion, which makes each unconstitutional.

One requires the physician to give two rounds of abortion-inducing medication to the patient in person. The second requires physicians to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where they perform the abortion.

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Affordable Care Act
12:47 pm
Sat October 19, 2013

At Texas Medical Conference, Ted Cruz Vows to Keep Fighting Obamacare

Sen. Ted Cruz spoke at the fall conference of the Texas Medical Association in Austin on Oct. 19, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT

Just a few days after the end of the partial government shutdown, Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz addressed the Texas Medical Association at its fall conference in Austin on Saturday.

He vowed to continue his effort against Obamacare. "My job is to fight for 26 million Texans," Cruz said, "and the reason I have been fighting this fight is anywhere you go in the state of Texas...the answer is the same: Obamacare is the biggest job killer in the country."

Cruz chided fellow Senate Republicans who didn’t support House Republicans in their opposition to funding Obamacare.

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Hunting Season
8:36 am
Thu October 17, 2013

More Texas Latinos Are Seeking Hunter Education - In Spanish

A student points a pellet gun at a paper target, required as part of the curriculum taught in the Spanish-language Hunter Education course of Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is handling an increased demand for hunter education from Latinos.

In recent years, the department has begun offering the course in Spanish. The move not only reflects the changing demographics of the state, but could also help Texas combat one of its most unwelcome pests. 

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ACL Cancellation
8:46 am
Sun October 13, 2013

Heavy Rains Soak Austin, Central Texas; ACL Festival Cancels Final Day

A flood warning remains in effect along the Colorado River for Travis and Bastrop Counties, and a flash flood watch for Central Texas remains in effect until this evening.
YNN Austin

Because of the weather, all of Austin Parks and Recreation systems trails are closed. Parks and Recreation also closed the Barton Springs Pool because of flooding, and all of Austin's golf courses are also closed. The Austin Police Department is urging limited driving on roads. 

Extreme flooding also impacted the Travis County wastewater lift station. It spilled 500,000 gallons of wastewater earlier this morning. The lift station, located at 4504 Travis Country Circle, has been repaired by Austin Water crews. Austin Water urges residents to avoid the area's creeks, though Austin Water's drinking water supply isn't affected.

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Turning the Corner
11:50 am
Fri October 11, 2013

Opening Soon in Dove Springs: A $2.4 Million Mental Health Clinic

Frances Acuña is one of thousands in Dove Springs who will seek mental health services at an intergrated care clinic opening in November 2013.
Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Donna Spencer and Iliana Gilman work with Austin Travis County Integral Care, the agency that provides mental health services for low-income residents in the area. They recently walked through the site of Integral Care’s soon-to-open $2.4 million facility, inside what used to be a Wal-Mart and a Sam’s Club.

It’s in the southeast Austin neighborhood of Dove Springs. This low-income, majority Latino neighborhood is getting its first mental health care facility. It’s in large part because of a federal initiative, the Medicaid 1115 waiver program, that funds experimental clinics like this one. It will offer mental health care and substance abuse treatment, along with routine primary care.

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Affordable Care Act
8:51 am
Wed October 9, 2013

Despite Obamacare, Few Health Options for Texas' Undocumented Immigrants

Immigrants must be “lawfully present” in the U.S. to buy health insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace.
KUT News

It’s been a full week since the opening of the health insurance marketplaces created through the Affordable Care Act. But only certain people qualify to buy insurance through that system.

Immigrants must be “lawfully present” to qualify to buy through the marketplace. That includes Green Card holders, refugees, Cuban or Haitian immigrants, people on worker and student visas and victims of human trafficking. But the 1.5 million undocumented immigrants estimated to live Texas are not included.

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Politics
3:28 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

Only Days Left for Texans to Register to Vote This November

Melinda Avey is a Geographic Information System coordinator for Travis County. She was helping people register to vote on the UT campus on Oct. 3, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT

The last chance to register to vote in the Nov. 5 election is Monday. And there’s another wrinkle for some: This is the first statewide election that requires voters to show photo ID. 

If you don’t have one of six approved government-issued photo IDs to bring with you to vote on Nov. 5, you can get an election ID certificate. I spoke to Travis County Voter Registrar Bruce Elfant at a Fiesta supermarket in South Austin, where he was getting the word out near a table set up by Department of Public Safety staff.

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Affordable Care Act
4:57 pm
Tue October 1, 2013

As Marketplace Launches, Central Texas Groups Push for Insurance Outreach

United Way and Central Health navigation specialists answer phone calls on Oct. 1, 2013, the launch date of the federal health insurance marketplace.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Austin officials and health advocates expressed excitement for the launch of the federally-run health insurance marketplace today. But they are also reminding people that outreach efforts have a long way to go.

“It is our responsibility to get the word out," said Central Health’s Rosie Mendoza during a press conference at United Way. "It’s everyone’s responsibility here today to help us do that.”

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Affordable Care Act
8:31 am
Tue October 1, 2013

LISTEN: Profiles of Uninsured in Texas as Marketplace Opens

Paula Phillips of San Marcos lacks health insurance and struggles to put money aside for medical bills. She may not qualify for a health insurance tax credit and is too young for Medicare.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Central Texas has more than 100,000 uninsured people – some of whom may decide to get coverage through the health insurance marketplace that launches today.

On the player below, listen to interviews with three Central Texans who are uninsured – about their health care situation – and what they might do as the Affordable Care Act takes effect.

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Affordable Care Act
4:32 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

Texas 'Obamacare' Navigators Testify Against Extra Training Requirements

From left to right: Sam Brown, Kursten Berry and Demetrio Selman are navigators who have been trained by Houston nonprofit Change Happens.
KUT News

The Affordable Care Act’s federal health insurance marketplace opens in Texas tomorrow. Workers known as navigators will help Texans sign up for health insurance. But these navigators are at the center of a political debate in Texas. 

Gov. Rick Perry recently directed the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) to come up with more training and regulations for navigators. He based his directive on a new law authored by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, called Senate Bill 1795. 

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Affordable Care Act
6:30 am
Mon September 30, 2013

Texas 'Obamacare' Navigators at Center of Dispute (Update)

On Sept. 30, 2013, the Texas Department of Insurance expects to begin the process of writing new rules that add extra training for health care navigators, despite training enforced by the federal government.

Update: The Affordable Care Act's health insurance marketplace opens tomorrow. Insurance navigators will be available in certain parts of the state to help Texans sort through coverage options. But Gov. Rick Perry wants navigators in Texas to have extra training. Gov. Perry proposes to require 40 hours of training on top of what’s mandated by the federal government.

The Texas Department of Insurance hosted a public meeting in Austin this morning to get feedback on that rule and others. The meeting took place  in the Hobby Building on Guadalupe Street.

Original post (Sept. 24): Next week, the Texas Department of Insurance expects to begin the process of writing new rules that add extra training for health care navigators. Those are the workers who are supposed to help people shop on the new insurance marketplace.

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Politics
6:36 pm
Fri September 27, 2013

Lawsuit Against Texas Abortion Law Gets Trial Date in Federal Court

State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, speaks before the July 2013 launch of the "Stand With Texas Women" statewide bus tour of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. It was a campaign against House Bill 2.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT

Planned Parenthood – together with several other groups -- filed a lawsuit, Planned Parenthood v. Abbott, in a federal court in Austin on Sept. 27. The aim is to block certain provisions of a new Texas law that restricts abortions.   

The preliminary injunction hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 21 before U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel in Austin. 

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Texas Abortion Law
4:27 pm
Fri September 27, 2013

You May Now Comment on Texas' New Rules for Abortion Clinics (Update)

People, some purposely in orange, came to testify before the Texas State Health Services Council on rules written by the health department that specify what abortion clinics must do to operate legally in Texas. The meeting took place on Aug. 28, 2013.
KUT News

Update: As of today, new specific rules regulating Texas abortion facilities are available for public comment.

The rules were drafted in response to House Bill 2, the abortion-restricting Texas law that Gov. Rick Perry signed in July. As the department that regulates abortion clinics in Texas, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) wrote the specific rules after interpreting the Legislature’s intent.

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Tobacco Tax
12:13 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

Smoking Study Suggests Tobacco Tax Could Fund Texas Preschools

A new study suggests a 94-cent tax hike on cigarettes would help fund Texas preschools.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Results of a new study by Gallup suggest smoking causes U.S. employers to lose $278 billion annually. That's due to smokers missing work for smoke breaks and because of additional health care costs compared to employees who don't smoke.

The data comes a day after another study, "Raising Smart, Healthy Kids in Every State" was released. It argues states would benefit from a 94-cent tax hike on cigarettes, as proposed by President Barack Obama. 

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Affordable Care Act
9:04 am
Thu September 26, 2013

Texas Parents May Soon Find Cheaper Health Insurance for Children

The new federal healthcare marketplace opening Oct. 1 could help families struggling to cover their children finally find an affordable plan.
flickr.com/hocolibrary

The new federal healthcare marketplace opening Oct. 1 could help families struggling to cover their children finally find an affordable plan. But the marketplace could also become a safety net for families on the verge of earning just enough to kick their children off of the current state and federally subsidized healthcare plans.

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Affordable Care Act
4:32 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

This Austin Group Helps You Navigate the Health Insurance Marketplace

Congressman Lloyd Doggett spoke on Sept. 24, 2013 at a center run by Foundation Communities, where certified application counselors will help consumers with questions about the federal health insurance marketplace.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

In a former storefront in Central Austin’s Highland Mall, a health care enrollment center is getting set up.

It’s one of dozens of centers in Texas where certified application counselors will help answer people's questions about buying health insurance via the new federal marketplace. 

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Affordable Care Act
11:38 am
Mon September 23, 2013

How Federal Regulations Will Affect Health Insurance Costs in Texas

Texas has declined to implement the marketplace itself, but new regulations of insurance plans – and their rates – will still be in effect here.
flickr.com/trp0

By October 1, we should know how much health insurance plans purchased through the new federal marketplace will cost.

Texas has declined to implement the marketplace itself, but new regulations of insurance plans and their rates will still be in effect here. So if you plan to buy insurance through the marketplace when it launches next week, Lisa McAdams with the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services in Dallas suggests you keep the following two things in mind:

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Affordable Care Act
4:27 pm
Wed September 18, 2013

Have Health Insurance Questions? Here's Where Texans Can Find Answers

Enroll America's Kenneth Flippin, left, and Jane Denson, right, knocked on the door of Shelby Childress on Sept. 7, 2013 in Austin.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

As the Oct. 1 launch of the federal health insurance marketplace nears, people may have questions about how it works.

Some Texans may get a visit from volunteers – such as those with the Get Covered America campaign of Enroll America  – going door to door to answer those questions. But consumers can also turn to counselors, websites and phone numbers for answers. 

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Politics
4:00 am
Fri September 13, 2013

What Texans Need to Know About the Health Insurance Marketplace

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius promoted the health insurance marketplace under the Affordable Care Act during an Austin visit on Aug. 8, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

About half of Americans say they don’t know how they and their families will be affected by the Affordable Care Act. That’s according to a Kaiser Health Tracking Poll done last month.

So what exactly do Texans need to know about the health insurance marketplace that launches next month?

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Transportation
10:52 am
Fri September 6, 2013

Gravel Roads? Funding Cuts? Texas Transportation Proposals Create Confusion, Alarm

The Texas Transportation Commission met on Aug. 29, 2013 in Austin to discuss proposals related to funding shortages of the Texas Department of Transportation.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Last week people packed into a room in downtown Austin. The Texas Transportation Commission, which oversees the Texas Department of Transportation, was having it’s monthly meeting. There it got some advice from State Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso.

"I think it’s time for TxDOT to say we made a mistake," Rep. Pickett said.

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