health insurance

healthcare.gov

Enrollment for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act is underway. If you’ve ever shopped for insurance, or had insurance, you know this involves lots of technical terms that might be confusing.

Todd Wiseman/KUT

From the Texas Tribune:

The rate of Texas residents without health insurance has dropped slightly but continues to outpace every other state, according to early figures released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

flickr.com/wstryder

One challenge many homeless people face is fighting addiction. And that battle could get tougher for some, as an Austin nonprofit that helps people recover from addiction has closed its detox facility – meaning new hurdles for the homeless and uninsured who need detox services.

This month, nonprofit Austin Recovery closed its detox facility. The detox process isn't pretty – in fact, it can be rather dangerous. Patients needed to be monitored around-the-clock by highly trained medical staff, just as if they were in a hospital setting.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

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.

Perry photo KUT News

In case you didn't know, Gov. Rick Perry doesn't think much of the Affordable Care Act - aka Obamacare.

He lead the charge to make sure Texas didn't participate in the voluntary expansion of people eligible for Medicaid coverage. And he was an early -- and often vocal opponent -- of the state creating a healthcare exchange under the ACA.

Courtesy Austin Food For Life

Austin's food scene is booming, but how are its workers faring?

The city has long had HAAM (Health Alliance for Austin Musicians) as a stopgap for musicians without health care. As Austin’s food scene rises to national prominence, Karla Loeb and her partner Brian Stubbs have seen a similar need for the city's chefs, busboys, servers and even farmers.