health care

Image via Texas Tribune/Michael Stravato

From Texas Standard:

Jasmine Johnson, a 20-year-old expectant mother, gave birth in January. She didn't just bring home a baby girl after her visit to the hospital – she also brought home a $1,500 medical bill she couldn’t afford.

Image via Flickr/faungg (CC BY-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard

The healthcare marketplace is open once again, but if you look closely at the offered insurance plans you might find something lacking: coverage for specialized treatments.

Charlotte Carpenter for KUT News

The city of Austin has released a report on health gaps throughout Travis County. It touches on high rates of teenage pregnancy, infant mortality and HIV among African-American and Hispanic communities.

But this report is just the first step toward helping the city and local non-profits find a way to use the city budget to bridge gaps between different communities.

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus released a two-year base budget last week, while the Senate is still working on its version.

Base budget estimates like this one [read a PDF version here] are just starting points for budget discussions over the course of the legislative session, but budget analysts are looking to see what's the starting point for spending on health care.

The House is beginning that discussion with almost $76 billion for Health and Human Services, while Medicaid would get about $60 billion – both small increases over the last budget. Mental health and substance abuse would get more than $3 billion, about the same as the last budget.

Sendero Health Plans recently started a pilot program that sends community health workers with the Latino Healthcare Forum to homes of Spanish-speaking parents who need help understanding what the doctor recommended -- an effort meant to reduce ER visits.

Courtesy of El Mundo Newspaper

On Saturday, Congressman Lloyd Doggett, State Sen. Kirk Watson and a number of community leaders will gather at a new southeast Austin health center that’s been years in the making.

Spencer Selvidge/KUT

Texans may find surprise charges after visiting an emergency room, according to a new report from the Center for Public Policy Priorities. How they find out about them is when an unexpected piece of mail arrives. 

Most people who have insurance think they know what they’re responsible for when it comes to paying for medical care at a hospital, if they visit one in their insurance provider's network, but in Texas, and many states in the U.S., people are getting what’s called a balance bill.

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

Yesterday, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission recommended closure for the Austin State Supported Living Center and five other similar centers among the 13 across the state that care for physically and cognitively disabled Texans.

While some residents have lived in these homes for decades and know no other home, lawmakers cite a history of abuse and neglect, waning enrollment numbers and a statewide shift to community-supported models in arguments to shutter the homes.

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with the Dr.

Early technical issues with the new healthcare marketplace,, brought serious criticism to an already controversial government initiative. But a new report published by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services suggests that the tides may be turning for Obamacare.

By the end of November, coverage plan enrollment numbers for Texans had jumped to 14,000 – that’s up from 3,000 the month before.

And many more Texans are on their way to enrolling. According to the same report, nearly a quarter of a million Texans have applied for coverage and are waiting to choose a Marketplace plan. Those numbers are actually the second highest in the nation for states that are supported or fully run by a federal (rather than a state-implemented) healthcare Marketplace.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

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.