health insurance marketplace

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.

Texas still has the highest rate of uninsured people in the country, about one in four, and a new survey, the Health Reform Monitoring Survey-Texas report, suggests even some people with health insurance are struggling to pay for it.  

The report looked at how Texans were feeling in September about health care and insurance just before the Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplace launched. Vivian Ho, an economist with Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, helped produce the report. She says they're trying to measure the impact of the health care law in Texas.

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. 

Bob Daemmrich,

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?