Affordable Care Act

Liang Shi for KUT News

Today, the Texas Senate Affairs Committee heard testimony on the Affordable Care Act – from enrollment numbers to costs to identity theft concerns. The public hearing comes after Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst asked lawmakers to study what he called “emerging negative impacts” of the law.

About 734,000 people in Texas signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act during the first enrollment period, and with another one about to begin, the Texas Department of Insurance says Texas has roughly 200 state-certified navigators who help people use after taking federal and Texas-specific training courses.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Ahead of the next legislative session, state senators are talking about one of the most politically divisive federal programs – Medicaid. Or more specifically, how to avoid expanding Medicaid eligibility in Texas and still get more people insured.

Under the Affordable Care Act, Texas has at least two options for insuring more people. One is expanding Medicaid eligibility in Texas. The state’s Republican leadership doesn’t support that option.

A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday dealt a significant blow to the Affordable Care Act, when it threw out an IRS regulation that governs subsidies. But before the ink dried on that decision, another three-judge panel hearing a similar case issued a decision that was completely opposite.

We’re learning more about the type of health insurance plan most Texas consumers purchased through the federal marketplace and how much they’re paying ,through data released today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Consumers can choose from four tiers of health plans – platinum to bronze. The most expensive ones contain the most benefits, while the lower cost plans with fewer benefits.

Most consumers in Texas chose the lowest or second lowest plans within the mid-level silver tier. Here's several examples of silver level plans from  Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas.

The Senate has voted to confirm Sylvia Mathews Burwell to the post of secretary of health and human services, where she will replace Kathleen Sebelius, who presided over the troubled rollout of the website.

In a 78-17 vote, Burwell, who served most recently as White House budget director, was approved Thursday.

In a statement released by the White House press office, President Obama said he applauded the confirmation of Burwell.

Nick Cowie for Texas Tribune

The debate over Medicaid expansion in Texas came up at the Capitol today in a new way: there’s concern about how to pay the rising costs of health care for prison inmates.

Costs related to infectious diseases like Hepatitis C and HIV are on the rise in the Texas correctional system. Another number on the rise: the amount of Texas inmates older than age 55.

State Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, says it’s another reason why the state should consider expanding Medicaid eligibility as offered by the Affordable Care Act.

Last year, the Republican playbook for keeping control of the House of Representatives in 2014 and winning the Senate consisted of a fairly simple strategy: Run against Obamacare.

But now that the 2014 races are starting to take shape, that strategy isn't looking quite so simple. Democrats are fighting back. They're focusing on Republican opposition to the health law's expansion of Medicaid as a part of their own campaigns.

Sure, you can still hear congressional Republicans talking about repealing the Affordable Care Act.

But there's clearly something different about the current climate, and the GOP approach to Obamacare. The thrill of repeal may not be gone for Republicans, but much of the urgency of repeal is.

For starters, the House GOP doesn't have more repeal votes lined up for these weeks after the spring recess.

President Obama says that enrollment under the Affordable Care Act has reached 8 million after the March 31 sign-up deadline was extended by two weeks.

"This thing is working," he told reporters at a White House briefing on Thursday.

The president said that 35 percent of those signing up through the federal government's website were under the age of 35. The need for younger, healthier individuals to enroll in the program is considered vital to the success of Obamacare.

If you bought health coverage through one of the online insurance marketplaces, you might have a tough time determining whether your plan covers abortion services.

Though Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius got an earful from members of Congress about the problem at a hearing last November, little's been done yet to clear up the confusion in some states.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who has borne the brunt of criticism for the troubled rollout of the website, said Friday that as she prepares to leave that agency she is thankful to have had the chance to work on "the cause of my life."

Her agency, Sebelius said, has been "in the front lines of a long overdue national change — fixing a broken health system."

Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Is Resigning

Apr 11, 2014

Health Secrerary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning after a five-year term that will no doubt be remembered for the calamitous implementation of President Obama's signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act.

If you remember, when the federal government unveiled, where Americans could buy health insurance mandated by Obamacare, the site was essentially useless for weeks after it launched in October.

This post was updated at 4:40 p.m. ET. with Obama's comments.

President Obama emerged from the White House on Tuesday to rousing applause. He announced that 7.1 million Americans had signed up for health care through the federal exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act.

"This law is doing what it's supposed to do," Obama said at the Rose Garden. "It's working. It's helping people from coast to coast."

The last day of sign-ups for health insurance on the website is turning out to have a lot in common with the first: lots of computer problems.

But there are some big differences, too. Back in October the not-ready-for-prime-time website was only able to enroll six people on its first day.

KUT News

Austin nonprofits are trying to sign up as many people as possible before tonight’s deadline to apply for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

Insure Central Texas has four enrollment centers in the Austin area. Program director Elizabeth Colvin says the demand for their services is exceeding their capacity; this morning they had 100 people lined up by the time they opened at 6 a.m.

The deadline to begin signing up is 11 p.m. tonight. Colvin advises people to at least start the application this evening, as those who do start then can finish the process at a later time.

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.  


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.

Next week is the last chance for most people without insurance to sign up for individual health coverage for the remainder of 2014.

Yet according to the latest monthly tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 60 percent of those without coverage still don't know that.

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.

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.