Affordable Care Act

Ben Philpott, KUT News

After 21 hours of talking - whether it was an official filibuster or not is still up for debate - Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas departed the Senate floor Wednesday.

Update at noon ET. It's Over:

Saying that "it's fitting that this debate concludes with a prayer" because he believes Americans are pleading with Congress to defund President Obama's health care law, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas just wrapped up his marathon protest on the Senate floor.

Cruz began speaking just after 2:40 p.m. ET Tuesday and abided by Senate rules when he finished at noon today.

"The pleas from the American people," he said of what he sees as the public's opposition to Obamacare, "are deafening."

Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has released preliminary costs for health insurance in the marketplaces opened under the Affordable Care Act.

The marketplaces are slated to open Oct. 1. These numbers are expected to change in the coming months after the marketplaces open, and before the Affordable Care Act goes into effect on Jan. 1.

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. 

Ben Philpott for KUT News

Update: Sen. Cruz's remarks have ended. For a recap, see: With A Call For Prayer, Cruz Wraps Up Protest Against Obamacare.

Original Post (Sept. 24): Tea Party favorite Sen. Ted Cruz seems to be taking a play from another Texas politico: Wendy Davis.

On the floor of the U.S. Senate moments ago, Sen. Cruz announced he will deliver extended, filibuster-style remarks on his support for defunding President Obama’s signature package of health care reforms, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Just a week before the federal government could shut down if no agreement is reached to fund it past the end of September, it's anyone's guess whether Democrats and Republicans will avoid plunging over this particular cliff.

More certain, however, is that if a shutdown happens over Obamacare and Republicans wind up taking the heat, many GOP fingers of blame will point squarely at Sen. Ted Cruz.

The Texas Republican will likely become the face of the 2013 shutdown, just as Newt Gingrich became the poster boy of two government shutdowns of the mid-1990s.

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:

House Republicans, meet Sen. Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz, House Republicans.

Given the surprise expressed by some House members at the Texas senator's approach to the defunding of Obamacare, perhaps an introduction was in order.

A few dozen House members Wednesday morning successfully coerced a reluctant Speaker John Boehner into tying the Obamacare language to a must-pass government funding bill. This came after weeks of television ads featuring Cruz and fellow Senate Republican Mike Lee advocating exactly that plan, regardless of the consequences.

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. 

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?

Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

The federal government is spending millions to promote new health insurance plans being sold through online marketplaces as part of the Affordable Care Act.

CDC/ Debora Cartagena

Texas continues to lead the country in the percentage of uninsured people under 65. That has been a trend for at least the last five years.

The latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau show more than one in four people under 65 did not have health insurance – that was more than 5.7 million people in 2011.

Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is spending some time in Texas as the August recess winds down. Today’s stops included a visit to National Instruments in Austin, where he’s calling for people to join his effort against the Affordable Care Act. 

He's urging the public to sign an online petition aimed at influencing members of the U.S. Congress to vote to get Obamacare defunded in a government appropriations bill.

Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

He's already a Houston physician, Republican campaign donor, radio talk show host and litigant in a federal lawsuit against the roll-out of "Obamacare." Now Dr. Steve Hotze may be adding aspiring pop star to that list. 

So you know all that talk about how the boatload of money going to health care will bankrupt the nation if something isn't done soon?

Well, it turns out that while politicians were bickering, the problem started taking care of itself. Well, a little bit.

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

The state of Texas has not joined in the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. At the Conservative Political Action Conference late last week, Gov. Rick Perry said he would not let Texas join the expansion unless the federal government tailored the program for this state.

Perry gave a list of requirements for Texas to join the Medicaid expansion. Many were items he’s demanded in the past, but one in particular caught the ear of those who support expansion.

“We need to asset-test to make sure care is there for those who really need it most,” Perry said at CPAC.

Mike Martinez via Facebook

Supporters of Texas expanding access to Medicaid, among them representatives of Planned Parenthood, marched up Congress Avenue Tuesday to the Capitol steps.

They’re calling on Texas lawmakers to accept Federal money as part of the Affordable Care Act to get healthcare to more than a million Texans who otherwise would not have it.

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

House Republicans on Monday agreed not to expand Medicaid as called for under the federal Affordable Care Act — but left the door open to doing it if the Obama administration grants Texas enough flexibility.

“The current path as proposed is unsustainable from a fiscal standpoint,” said caucus chairman Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe. He said the caucus would continue to “propose solutions on the issue, which we’re formulating and will continue to do so throughout the session.” 

Governor Rick Perry is adamant, Texas will not make Medicaid available to more Texans by taking part in a federal program. But recently other Republican governors in Nevada and Arizona have changed their minds, saying they can’t ignore the billions of federal dollars they’d lose by opting out.

Lawmakers in Austin are now debating what Texas should do, including a senator from  Greenville who also wears a stethoscope.  

Two years and $8.4 billion into the government's effort to get doctors to take their practices digital, some unintended consequences are starting to emerge.

One is a lot of unhappy doctors. In a big survey by Medscape, an online site for doctors, 38 percent of the doctors polled said they were unhappy with their electronic medical records system.