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Video: Cornyn – Democrats Refuse to Help Fix Health Care Mess They Created

Wednesday on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) invited his Democratic colleagues to join the effort to provide relief for the millions of Americans hurt by the Affordable Care Act.

Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s remarks are below, and video of his remarks can be found above.

“Yesterday, we took a giant step toward delivering on our promise to the American people to provide relief from the failures of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

“Over the last seven years, we have discussed what our solution would look like. And everybody who has been willing to participate in that conversation – sadly, not our Democratic colleagues who simply refused to do so – but every member of our conference is engaged in discussions and had input on how best to accomplish the goal of providing people affordable coverage, increased access, market stability, and better care.

“You know, we can talk about all of the details, but basically, what this boils down to is how do we provide people with access to quality, affordable health care?”

“What we’ve tried to do on this side of the aisle, and we’ve repeatedly invited our Democratic colleagues to join us because, optimally, this would be a bipartisan effort, but so far they’ve refused to participate whatsoever and really are focused solely on trying to blow up the current process.”

“I know members have a lot of ideas about how to fix the mess that Obamacare has left us, but that was precisely why it was so important for us to get on the bill yesterday, so members on both sides of the aisle can offer amendments and share their ideas.”

“Last night we began the process of considering amendments, including one from my colleague in Texas, Senator Cruz, who has a plan to provide people who choose a lower-cost premium insurance product the opportunity to do so as long as the state also requires a comprehensive plan as well. This is something ideal for many people who want an insurance safety net but don’t necessarily want their health insurance to pay for their regular medical expenses or doctor visits.”

“People keep talking about a secret process. Well, this is about as open and transparent as it gets, and everybody will have an opportunity to offer an amendment, to discuss what’s in the amendment, and to vote on it.”

AARP: Senate-Health Care ‘Fix’ Doesn’t Work for Older Texans

AUSTIN – Advocates for Texas seniors warn that if the U.S. Senate passes the new health care plan revealed on Thursday, it could be both a financial and health disaster for older Texans.

AARP predicts the bill, which could be voted on as early as next week, would raise annual health premiums for 50 to 64-year-olds as much as $20,000, five times the regular rate.

It also cuts Medicaid, on which more than half of Texas nursing home residents depend.

AARP Texas State Director Bob Jackson says Senate Republicans are asking the wrong questions in their attempt to “fix health care.”

“The first thing you’ve got to do is get a strong sense of, ‘Did the current law cause those costs to go up or, frankly, did the cost of health care cause them to go up?’” he states. “Because there’s a big difference there. Did the law create the problem, or is the health care system just getting more and more expensive?”

Republican leaders updated the plan to address some senators’ concerns, but not all of them. The biggest change would allow insurers to sell so-called bare bones policies that don’t meet the basic coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

The Congressional Budget Office is set to release its report on the proposal on Monday.

Jackson says AARP and other groups are appealing directly to Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, urging him to make sure the health care plan helps Texans – or to vote “no” if it doesn’t.

“If you only make decisions around health care about how somebody’s going to make a profit, then you’ve already started in the wrong place,” Jackson stresses. “You need to start in the place that says, ‘How do we, the most efficiently, get the best care we can to everybody?'”

Jackson says other concerns about the health proposal include reviving the ban on covering pre-existing conditions, and a return to lifetime caps on insurance coverage.

GOP leaders need 50 votes to pass a plan, but as of Thursday, at least half-dozen senators still voiced objections to parts of it.

Author: Mark Richardson, Public News Service (TX)

Video+Story: Cornyn – Health Care Status Quo Isn’t Working

WASHINGTON – Monday on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) discussed the ongoing effort to replace Obamacare with real health care reform. Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s remarks are below:

“Many of our friends across the aisle, in fact all of them so far here in the Senate, have made clear they want nothing to do with providing any help or any aid to the people who are being hurt by the failures of Obamacare.”

“And now they’re in the process of attacking those of us who are trying to help people who are hurting rather than lending a helping hand and working together with us in a bipartisan way.”

“For those Americans, I want to make sure they understand, notwithstanding all the scare tactics: Medicaid is not going away.”

“In my state alone, in the state of Texas, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, as many as 600,000 new low-income Texans will benefit from the provisions of the Better Care Act. It will help qualify them for a tax credit not available to them under Obamacare.”

“By providing low-income Americans access to private insurance instead of Medicaid, we can assist those who were previously left out of the health care market and will now be able to purchase a plan of their choice, perhaps for the first time.”

“Our plan also frees consumers from government mandates requiring them to buy insurance they don’t want and they can’t afford. This way families can choose what works best for them, free from the penalty by the government. And for some individuals, they may choose to go with no plan at all.”

“We’re going to continue to talk and listen and exchange ideas on how we can continue to make improvements. But, in the end, the choice is clear. You either ultimately support Obamacare and the status quo, or you’re willing to try to work with us to do something better.”

“That’s simply the choice that people are going to have. A no vote against an alternative is simply a vote for the status quo under Obamacare.”

NM Group Slams Obamacare Replacement Bill Ahead of Senate Debate

ALBUQUERQUE – Senate GOP leaders won’t return to Washington, D. C., until Monday to renew debate on the replacement for Obamacare. That hasn’t stopped opponents of the proposed bill from protesting, in New Mexico and cities across the country.

In Albuquerque last week, Bill Jordan with New Mexico Voices for Children – the group’s senior policy advisor and government relations officer – joined Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., at an outdoor news conference at the University of New Mexico.

According to Jordan, 300,000 New Mexico children now rely on Medicaid for health care because the state has been very successful in implementing Obamacare.

“We’ve done better than almost any state,” Jordan told the crowd, “and this bill would hurt us more than almost any other state.”

New Mexico is one of eight states with a “trigger” law to automatically undo the Obamacare Medicaid expansion if there’s any reduction in federal financial support. In order to shoulder a larger share of health-care costs for low-income residents, Jordan said the state would need to implement substantial tax increases or slash other essential state services.

He pointed out that New Mexico’s Medicaid services have already been trimmed due to the state’s 2017 budget woes. So, while other, wealthier states might be able to pick up some Medicaid costs to offset the loss of federal dollars, New Mexico isn’t one of them.

As he put it, “These are kids whose families have no other option for health care. There is nothing else. There is no other payer source.”

Jordan added that more than 70 percent of births reported in the state are paid for by Medicaid.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated nationwide, 22 million more Americans would be without insurance in 10 years if the Senate bill is passed in its current form.

Author:  Roz Brown -Public News Service (NM)

Sen. Cornyn Statement on Senate GOP Health Care Reform Plan

U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) released the following statement after Senate Republicans released a discussion draft of legislation to replace what he characterized as the ‘failed Affordable Care Act (ACA)’:

“After years of debate, hearings, and stories from folks harmed by Obamacare, today is a critical step towards delivering on our promise to provide the relief Texans so desperately need.

Our plan will help lower skyrocketing costs, protect patients with pre-existing conditions, and ensure Medicaid is there for the Texans who need it most. Under this plan, gone are the days where people are forced to buy insurance they don’t want and can’t afford.  

“The time to close the book on Obamacare is now. Our plan will help deliver access to better care at a price the American people can actually afford.”

THE SENATE REPUBLICAN HEALTH CARE PLAN

Protects Texans’ Access to Health Coverage

  • Safeguards Medicaid for the Texans who need it most.
  • Preserves access to care for Texans with pre-existing conditions.

Provides More Options for Texas Patients

  • Will help boost options for the approximately 1.5 million Texans who buy their insurance on the individual market, which will be especially helpful for Texans in the 88 counties (one out of every three in Texas) that currently offer only one insurance option.
  • Repeals the employer mandate penalty, which means employers will be able to offer employees more choices at a lower cost, helping the 48% of Texans who receive health insurance through work.

Makes Care More Affordable for Texans

  • Slows down sky-rocketing premiums, which Texans have seen go up 82% in the past 4 years alone.
  • Provides tax credits to help low-income Texans living below the federal poverty line – 4 million of whom receive no help under current law — afford health care.
  • Repeals the health insurance tax, which drives up premium costs, and repeals the tax on individuals who choose not to buy insurance.
  • Increases funds for Texas’ first-class hospitals that serve low-income patients who don’t have insurance.
  • Increases Medicaid funding for those struggling with mental illness.
  • Provides new funding to combat opioid abuse. 4 of the 25 U.S. cities with the highest rates of opioid abuse are in Texas.

On the Senate floor, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) spoke about the discussion draft of legislation introduced by Senate Republicans to replace the failing Affordable Care Act.  Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s remarks are below, and video of his remarks can be downloaded here.

 “We’ll have a process next week whereby any Senator who has an amendment to the bill has an absolute right to file that amendment.”

 “I can’t imagine a more transparent and open process than put it on the internet, invite people’s comments and discussion, and then have an open amendment process following debate, and then vote.”

 “This, I believe, is a framework for better care. But we’re going to continue to discuss this plan and talk to anyone who is willing to talk to us and work with us. If there is a way the bill can be strengthened, I am open to it. But the status quo isn’t working, and our Democratic colleagues know it.”

Report: Texas Rural Health Care Faces Funding Crisis

AUSTIN, Texas – A new report warns that rural hospitals in Texas could be hit hardest under a Congressional plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

It found that proposed funding cuts to the Medicaid program, which already is operating at a minimal level in Texas, could force many rural hospitals to close, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without reasonable access to health care.

David Pearson, director of the Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals, which produced the study, said a new round of funding cuts could devastate the state’s already challenged rural health-care system.

“Continual reduction in reimbursements and available financial resources, either at the state or the federal level, have just gotten to the point where a lot of small hospitals are unsustainable,” said Pearson. “They don’t have the local tax support to make up that difference.”

According to the report, the state’s rural health-care system faces declining reimbursement rates along with rising health-care costs, and Texas already has the highest uninsured rate in the United States.

When Texas lawmakers did not expand Medicaid under the ACA, Pearson said, it put dozens of rural hospitals on the critical list.

He said 16 rural hospitals in Texas have closed since 2013, with an increasing number in financial distress. Pearson also explained that a proposed plan to fund Medicaid through block grants would only shift the financial burden of rural health care to those who can least afford it.

“Local governments and/or local tax districts already fund a large share of Medicaid,” he said. “The tax base in a rural area just isn’t large enough to be able to generate the kind of revenue that would be needed to offset that reduction.”

Pearson said when a rural hospital closes, it creates a damaging ripple effect in the local economy. He added that Texas isn’t the only state facing a rural health-care crisis.

“This really is a national crisis,” he warned. “Unfortunately, Texas leads the way as far as the number of closures, but closures across the country in rural areas are really starting to add up.”

The report, which was completed before the Republicans’ current American Health Care Act was released, was sponsored by the nonprofit Episcopal Health Foundation.

Author: Mark Richardson – Texas News Service

Opinion: Hurd on the Hill – Constituent-Driven Policy & Obamacare Opinions

Last week, I hosted my thirteenth live telephone town hall meeting in the last two years.  Although they are no substitute for the 50-plus in-person town halls and more than 400 public events I have also led, telephone town hall meetings have allowed me to communicate with over 630,000 constituents since 2015.

Telephone town halls are just what they sound like – town hall meetings conducted over the telephone. They give me the opportunity to connect with thousands of constituents while I’m in Washington for the legislative session, and are one of many ways that I listen to constituents on a regular basis.

Over the course of 92 minutes last Thursday evening, I spoke with thousands of constituents from across the district and answered their questions live. I also asked a series of poll questions to get important feedback from folks.

Among several topics that were discussed, we spent the majority of our time talking about how Obamacare has failed, and what constituents can expect with its repeal and improved replacement in the future.  In response to my survey questions, I learned that half of over 500 respondents are paying more for insurance today than they were before Obamacare, and more than 40 percent of them have, or know someone who has had, to change insurance plans or doctors since Obamacare was implemented.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Americans receiving insurance through the Obamacare exchanges have been pummeled by a 25 percent average increase in premiums. These numbers are crippling American families and the situation is only going to get worse with fewer coverage options and even higher costs.

I wanted to discuss Obamacare on the telephone town hall because I have spent a lot of time lately reassuring constituents that as we repeal and replace it, individuals and families will not be left without healthcare. After asking another poll question, over 70 percent of respondents agreed that Congress should not repeal Obamacare without a replacement. This tells me that most of us are all on the same page. I am confident that Congress will deliver on our promise to provide a stable transition period to a patient-centered health care system that gives Americans access to quality, affordable care.

It’s also clear that key provisions of our replacement plan, like tax credits and guaranteeing coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, have broad support. Not surprisingly, constituents on the call favored being incentivized by tax credits when purchasing insurance, rather than being fined for declining it. Over 80 percent of respondents also agreed that certain features of Obamacare, such as guaranteed coverage for pre-existing conditions and staying on a parent’s plan until age 26, should stay in place. These are features that House Republicans will preserve.

In upcoming weeks, Congress will begin the process of repealing Obamacare’s most burdensome components – including eliminating the individual and employer mandate penalties – and move forward with patient-centered reforms.

As we move through the process, I assure you that your experiences are important to me and will continue to shape my opinions on how we should move forward. Please continue to reach out to me with your questions and concerns, and, if you would like to participate in future telephone town hall meetings, constituents may subscribe on my website.

A former undercover CIA officer, entrepreneur and cybersecurity expert, Will Hurd is the U.S. Representative for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas. In Washington, he serves on the House Intelligence Committee, as Vice Chair of the Maritime and Border Security Subcommittee on the Committee for Homeland Security, and as the Chairman of the Information Technology Subcommittee on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Opinion: Senator Cornyn – Obamacare Replacement Major Step in Right Direction

WASHINGTON – Tuesday on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) discussed the American Health Care Act. Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s remarks are below, and video of his remarks can be found here.

“The fact of the matter is that Obamacare has been one broken promise after another. President Obama and advocates of this law said that if you wanted to keep your plan, you could keep it. But that didn’t pan out.” 

“They said if you liked your doctor, you didn’t have to find another one. That didn’t turn out to be true either. And they promised people across the country would have more coverage, more options, and better health care, all at a more affordable price. Well, that ended up not being true either.”

“Now we have an opportunity to do better for the people we represent, who are counting on us to deliver, to repeal Obamacare and replace it with options that work, and I believe the plan released last night is a major step in the right direction.” 

“Patients need better tools, like health savings accounts…We need to break down the barriers that restrict choice and keep Americans from choosing an insurance plan that works…And we need to empower employers, particularly small business owners, to provide their employees with the kind of affordable coverage that meets their needs.” 

“We need to move health care decisions out of Washington and send them back to the states and back to patients and families and their doctors.” 

“So I’m glad our colleagues in the House and our friends in the White House fully understand why this is such a priority and why we need to keep the promise that we made. As soon as we can do that and deliver on that major promise to the American people, the sooner we do that, a whole lot of American families across the country will feel relief.” 

Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees

Report: NM Makes Progress on Insuring Children, But Poverty Worsening

SANTE FE, N.M. – Children in New Mexico struggle against endemic poverty, but there are some positive signs, according to the KidsCount 2016 Databook released Tuesday.

The report says 141,000 New Mexico children live in poverty. That is 29 percent of kids statewide, a figure that has gotten worse since 2008. It also shows that, in one-third of families, neither parent has secure, full-time year-round work.

James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, which issued the report, says there is some good news: the state has made major progress on insuring more kids. He credits the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

“That’s really important because when children get an opportunity to have their well-baby checks and so on, there’s a much greater likelihood that they can avoid diseases that will cause them delays as they develop,” he explained.

Jimenez notes, however, that the Medicaid expansion is under serious threat with the upcoming repeal of Obamacare. The research did show one other positive trend, the state has slightly reduced the number of low-birth-weight babies.

The report blames many of the state’s stubborn problems on the lackluster economy, which still hasn’t recovered from the recession despite multiple rounds of tax cuts designed to create more economic activity. Jimenez says the state’s whole approach should be overhauled to prioritize the needs of low-income families.

“We’ve got some other recommendations that would include better ways to fund our state government, so that we really provide the kinds of services that we think are necessary, including funding for child care,” he said.

The authors also recommend lawmakers change the income limits so more people qualify for child-care assistance, raise the minimum wage and protect food-assistance programs from further cuts.

Author: Suzanne Potter, Public News Service

Hurd on the Hill: Paving the Way for Better Healthcare

“What’s the point of having health insurance anymore?”

I’m often asked this question by constituents who are pummeled by out-of-pocket costs under Obamacare.

It’s a great question. And after six years of this experiment, it is clear that Obamacare has failed the American people. Families face skyrocketing premiums and soaring deductibles, making healthcare more unaffordable than ever. In Texas this year alone, we’ve experienced a 34 percent increase in Obamacare premiums, forcing us to pay more each month just to keep our coverage. Couple that with multiplying deductibles in the thousands of dollars, and it’s no surprise that many people feel like they don’t have coverage at all.

Obamacare is collapsing as we speak. Only five of the original 23 health insurance CO-OPs remain in business, and these failures have cost taxpayers more than $1.8 billion.  As insurers continue to drop like dominos, options for healthcare coverage continue to shrink. Currently, over a third of counties nationwide have only one choice for health insurance. That is not a choice – that’s a monopoly.

A modern-day health care model should allow patients—along with their health care providers— to make decisions about their health care needs, instead of a federal administrator. Loving parents working with their local doctor would do a far better job of protecting the health of their children, and caregivers at home know far more about their family’s need than bureaucrats in Washington.

The Good News

The good news is that we are finally on the same page. Eight in ten Americans agree that we need to significantly change or repeal Obamacare altogether, and Congress is responding by repealing Obamacare and paving the way for better healthcare for all Americans.

We already have a replacement plan, and it provides more choices and less top-down mandates. It also makes sure that you never have to worry about being turned away because of pre-existing conditions, age, income, or circumstance. Our plan eliminates unnecessary bureaucracy to accelerate the development of life-saving devices and therapies, and it protects Medicare for today’s seniors, while preserving the program for future generations.

I am fighting with my colleagues to provide relief for millions of struggling families. The end goal is a patient-centered system that lowers costs and provides more choices for the American people.

What to Expect

As we work to replace Obamacare with something better, there will be a stable transition period so that no one has the rug pulled out from underneath them. Patients currently on the healthcare exchange will not lose coverage without a replacement, kids will still be able to stay on their parent’s plans, and patients with preexisting conditions will not be turned away.

Our blueprint lays out a step-by-step process that begins with a budget resolution for fiscal year 2017, authorizing Congress to fast-track repeal legislation with only simple majorities in the House and Senate. This legislation passed last week, paving the way for us to begin in earnest to repeal and replace this job-killing law that has neither made healthcare more affordable nor protected patients. In the coming months, Congress will work to first repeal tax-related provisions, such as the individual mandate that eliminated choice for patients across the country, while maintaining protections for those with pre-existing conditions and strengthening successful programs like Medicare Advantage and Health Savings Accounts.

We are committed to doing this the right way so that every American has access to quality, affordable coverage for years to come. Learn more about our plan at www.abetterway.speaker.gov

Millions of Texans Could Lose Coverage if ACA Repealed

AUSTIN, Texas — Congress has set in motion what it says is a plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. But what could happen in Texas if the plan is only repealed?

One study projects that ending Obamacare without immediately enacting an equivalent plan would result in 2.6 million Texans losing health coverage by 2019. Anne Dunkelberg, associate director at the Center for Public Policy Priorities, which produced the study, said a repeal of the plan would hit the state’s working families hardest.

“Close to 85 percent of them are getting subsidies. The average subsidy is 75 percent of the premium,” Dunkelberg said. “So, if those subsidies go away, the vast majority would not be able to afford to just pick up the other 75 percent of the premium.”

The study also found that Texas stands to lose about $62 billion in federal healthcare funding over the next decade if the ACA is repealed, and it would pay out billions more to doctors and hospitals to cover the cost of uncompensated care.

Congress has vowed to replace Obamacare but has yet to reveal the details of any plan it is considering.

Dunkelberg said that if Congress only repeals the plan, the significant gains made in the state’s uninsured rate by Obamacare would likely be reversed.

“Even though Texas still has the worst uninsured rate, and the highest uninsured number in the country, and didn’t do the Medicaid expansion along with 18 other states, we still had a big, major reduction in our uninsured rate as a result of it,” Dunkelberg said.

She said she’s also concerned that any new plan could reverse basic requirements, allowing insurers to sell policies that don’t cover key expenses such as prescription drugs, mental health or maternity care.

“Being able to have a talking point that says that the price of the premium went down when in fact the reason it went down is that it’s no longer covering anything that you actually need, and it leaves you open to medical bankruptcy,” Dunkelberg said.

The report warned that a repeal of the ACA without an adequate replacement would mean that almost 30 million Americans could lose access to affordable health care.

Author – Mark Richardson, Public News Service

Report: ACA Repeal Without Replacement Could Hurt Texans

AUSTIN, Texas – The incoming Trump administration and a Republican Congress are vowing a partial repeal of the Affordable Care Act, but they’re vague about a replacement plan.

A new report from the Urban Institute says a repeal could cost as many as 30 million Americans access to health care, including some 2.6 million people in Texas.

Patrick Bresette, director of the Children’s Defense Fund-Texas, says repealing Obamacare could bring unintended consequences to the health care market and the U.S. economy.

“There should be no way that Congress is allowed to repeal this without a clear plan of what they are going to replace it with, or pulling out certain aspects of it,” he stresses. “We’ve likened it to the game Jenga, where you pull out one block and you think you’ve only dealt with that, but the ripple effects are going to be enormous.”

The study shows that a repeal would increase the number of uninsured Texans to 6.9 million people, keeping the state with the highest uninsured rate in the country.

Texas would also lose $62 billion in federal health care funding over a 10-year period.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University, says that under the ACA, 95 percent of American children now have health insurance.

“But now Congress is poised to take a U-turn and taking away affordable coverage options which would actually double the number of uninsured kids,” she states.

Bresette adds that it’s not just the poor who have benefited from Obamacare.

“All of us are paying a little bit less for health insurance than we might,” he points out. “We’ve got protections for pre-existing conditions, elderly people on Medicare benefited from improvements in prescription drug costs. So I think that it’s important to remember that we’ve all benefited one way or another.”

The report says the “repeal through reconciliation” plan could cut financial assistance with premiums, individual and employer mandates and the Medicaid expansion, while keeping some reforms such as a ban on exclusions for pre-existing conditions.

Author: Mark Richardson – Texas News Service

More Texas Young Adults, Fewer Hispanics Insured Under ACA

HOUSTON – More young adults in Texas have health insurance, according to a new study by Rice University, which also finds that fewer Hispanics and low-income adults have coverage.

The report says the number of young adults in Texas without health insurance has dropped by 35 percent since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect in 2013.

But the study also shows that a significant number of Texans remain shut out of the health insurance marketplace.

Elena Marks, director of the Episcopal Health Foundation and a co-author of the study, says because Texas has opted to not use federal dollars to expand Medicaid under the ACA, many people are left without options.

“The lowest income groups really don’t have an opportunity to buy coverage,” she points out. “So whether they’re young or old or black or white or purple, there’s just not a lot that the ACA offers other than Medicaid expansion, which the state has turned down.”

Marks says the study found more than one-third of young Hispanics and 56 percent of low-income young adults in Texas still do not have health insurance.

She says that despite having the opportunity to enroll through the ACA, one-third of Hispanics in Texas remain uninsured, compared with just 10 percent of the white population.

Marks says the increase in coverage of 18 to 34-year-olds, often called young invincibles, is due to more companies offering insurance to employees, along with rules that allow children up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ policies.

She says the participation of young adults in the health insurance marketplace is important to its long-term success.

“The young invincibles, despite people saying they’ll never get insured, actually have become increasingly insured,” she points out. “They still lag behind the oldest adults. We’re pleased to see that they have made gains. We’d like to see them make greater gains.”

The report is part of a series tracking the implementation of the Affordable Care Act by Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and the Episcopal Health Foundation.

Author: Mark Richardson – Public News Service

High Court Orders New Briefs in ACA Contraceptives Case

AUSTIN, Texas – The U.S. Supreme Court issued a rare order this week for new arguments in a case involving contraceptives and the Affordable Care Act, which could mean the justices are looking for a compromise.

The court requested that parties in the case, including one from Texas, file new briefs outlining alternatives for obtaining contraceptives without violating a business’ religious beliefs.

Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, says her group sees the order as a positive sign for a favorable ruling.

“The Fifth Circuit in that Texas case found that there was no substantial burden on religious beliefs, simply by the fact that the employers have to fill out a one-page form stating their objection to contraceptive coverage.”

The Supreme Court is hearing a group of consolidated cases from multiple appeals courts, including a case filed by East Texas Baptist University in Marshall.

At the heart of the case is the contention by certain businesses that being forced to provide contraceptive care for their female employees violates their religious beliefs.

Amiri says the justices appear to be asking the parties in the case to find a workable solution and avoid split decision that falls along party lines.

“The order is encouraging because it seems to focus on ways in which women can get contraception coverage from their health insurance,” says Amiri. “Instead of the suggestions from the employers of going on the exchange or going to a free health clinic. Those are absurd alternatives.”

Amiri says the vacancy on the court caused by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia gives the court a number of options in the case, but adds that a decision will not be likely rendered until the additional briefs are received.

The court’s current term ends in June, though it could also extend the case to its next session.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service (TX)

Rate of uninsured Hispanic Children falls significantly under ACA

AUSTIN, Texas – The rate of uninsured Hispanic children has fallen to an historic low during the first year of the Affordable Care Act, according to a new report.

The study by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families and the National Council of La Raza, shows Texas has also made major strides in enrolling Hispanic kids in Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Policy programs. Sonya Schwartz, policy fellow with the Georgetown Center, says the report is good news for an important group of people.

“We know Latino children are the fastest-growing segment of our entire population,” says Schwartz. “They’re growing from one in four children today, to one in three children by 2050. And Hispanic children will be our nation’s future doctors, teachers and workers.”

The study reports nationally, the number of uninsured Hispanic children fell by 15 percent from 2013 to 2014, a drop of about 300,000. In Texas, there was a 9 percent decline in the number of uninsured Hispanic kids during the same period.

Dr. Laura Guerra-Cardus, associate director with the Children’s Defense Fund of Texas, says while the group briefly celebrated the lower numbers, there is much more work to do.

“The numbers still show that the Hispanic children are disproportionately represented in our number of uninsured children, says Guerra-Cardus. “And unfortunately, Texas continues to have the distinction of having the highest number of uninsured Hispanic children of any other state.”

Guerra-Cardus says the positive news is that two-thirds of the uninsured Hispanic children in Texas are currently eligible for Medicaid and CHIP. She says her group plans to step up its efforts to identify and enroll as many of those children as possible.

Author: Mark Richardson, Public News Service

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