Affordable Care Act

Oregon might be seen as a complete failure or a surprising success when it comes to its health insurance exchange.

One the one hand, the state's website has yet to allow a single person to enroll. That's a big problem for the folks who are hoping to qualify for subsidies and buy insurance that will start Jan. 1.

Filipa Rodrigues

President Barack Obama’s decision to allow insurance companies to continue offering policies that would be canceled under the Affordable Care Act has an unclear effect on Texans.

In an announcement today, the President said he is leaving it up to states and state insurance commissioners to decide if consumers can keep these plans through 2014.

In a written statement, Texas Governor Rick Perry said the decision makes a bad situation worse, by creating more confusion for consumers. John Davidson with the Texas Public Policy Foundation agrees.

President Obama announced Thursday that Americans who have had their health insurance plans canceled because of his Affordable Care Act can keep those plans for another year if they wish.

Those cancellations — most effective on Jan. 1 — have sparked intense criticism of the ACA, in part because the president pledged many times that if Americans liked the health plans they had, they wouldn't have to give them up under the terms of his program.

Fewer than 3,000 people in Texas signed up for health plans in the first month of enrollment through the Affordable Care Act website, according to data released today [PDF] by the Health and Human Services department.

Other Texas findings in the data:

  • 11,682 Texans were determined to be eligible for CHIP and/or Medicaid through the federal health care marketplace, HealthCare.gov.
  • Almost 54,000 Texans actually completed applications. Those applications would cover more than 108,000 individuals.
  • Most of those applicants – over 80,000 – are eligible to enroll in a health insurance plan available through the federal marketplace– but they haven’t done so yet.  

The woman whose smiling face adorned the HealthCare.gov website in the first days after its launch has stepped forward to tearfully address those who she says cyberbullied her as they took potshots at the Obama administration's troubled online health exchange.

Veronica Zaragovia, KUT

A push to get people to buy health insurance through the federal marketplace has included plenty of visits from federal officials.

Last week, President Barack Obama told an audience of volunteers in Dallas that affordable health insurance is a pretty big deal in this state.

"There’s no state that actually needs this more than Texas," President Obama says. 

Bob Daemmrich, flickr.com/thetexastribune

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has renewed his call for additional training and privacy requirements for “navigators” that help Texas consumers sign up for health insurance through the federally-run Affordable Care Act marketplace.

This week, Abbott wrote a letter to Texas Insurance Commissioner Julia Rathgeber asking her department to draft new privacy standards. In August, Abbott and 12 other attorneys general sent a letter citing privacy concerns to Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.

flickr.com/lidor

University of North Texas student Angela Quijano didn’t think about health insurance much before the Affordable Care Act. She says she didn’t know how the health insurance system worked and found getting coverage confusing.

Quijano did know one thing, though: she couldn’t go to the doctor because she didn’t have any health insurance.

“Nobody ever really talks about it. My parents basically told me when I had it, or (when) I didn’t have it,” Quijano, a 22-year-old senior majoring in political science, says. “Not too many of us think about it until it comes time to get a yearly checkup or something comes up.”

healthcare.gov

One of the big promises of the Affordable Care Act was that encouraging insurance companies to compete to sell their health plans would drive down prices.

Here in Austin, people who choose to buy health insurance on the federally-run health insurance marketplace have dozens of plans to choose from. Texans in many rural parts of the state will find far fewer. But they're not necessarily more expensive than in urban parts.

Take Loving County. It's pretty rural. According to the Census Bureau, just 71 people were living in this West Texas county in 2012, down from 82 in 2010.

Following a problem-plagued launch of the HealthCare.gov website, the White House on Monday officially announced a six-week extension to sign up for coverage under the law's individual mandate.

The move has been expected since White House Press Secretary Jay Carney acknowledged last week that there was a "disconnect" in the enrollment timeline given the technical issues that have dogged the website.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

With all of the attention on the health care marketplace website problems, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was in Austin today for some damage control. 

Sebelius went to CommUnityCare’s East Austin Health Center, where she promised that problems with healthcare.gov and its Spanish-language version will get fixed.

She also praised mayors across Texas for supporting Medicaid expansion, and urged state leaders to join them.

"I’m hoping that Texas takes another look at that opportunity because there will be millions of people still left on the side of the road with no affordable options," Sebelius said.

A subcontractor that built a portion of the HealthCare.gov website that's now working relatively well is being promoted to oversee a thorough revamping of the entire glitch-prone portal, and work will be done by the end of next month, the White House says.

(Click here to jump to our latest updates — including a Democrat accusing Republicans of holding a "monkey court.")

Republicans in the House have framed the central question they want answered about the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act this way, NPR's Ailsa Chang said Thursday on Morning Edition:

The website that's meant to allow Americans to shop and sign up for new medical plans under the Affordable Care Act isn't working as well as it should, President Obama says. But he promised that the problems will be fixed — and he said the Affordable Care Act is bringing many benefits that aren't tied to those problems.

"Nobody is madder than me that the website isn't working as it should — which means that it's going to get fixed," Obama told a crowd at an outdoor address at the White House.

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.

healthcare.gov

It’s Day Two for the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplace – and things are still slow going for many.

Sarah Bates is one of the uninsured Texans searching for affordable health insurance in the federal marketplace. Working over 40 hours a week as an Austin musician, she approached the marketplace skeptically.

flickr.com/sharynmorrow

Although the Affordable Care Act is now the law of the land, the fight is far from over. Yesterday's launch of insurance marketplace websites saw some hiccups, including long wait times as people jammed onto the sites to sign up for coverage.

Now, the state says, there's another problem: for some families, using the marketplace sites could lead to a delay in children’s healthcare coverage.

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.”

healthcare.gov

Today marks the opening of the Affordable Care Act’s federal health insurance marketplace – healthcare.gov.

Beginning today, consumers can begin purchasing health insurance plans, with coverage beginning Jan. 1. It’s a signature component of the insurance changes collectively known as "Obamacare."

KUT has been covering the run-up to today’s marketplace opening. Here’s some answers to common questions about the marketplace: the types of coverage offered, how to navigate the marketplace and more, including an interactive guide.

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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