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Tag Archives: obamacare

More Texans May be Left Without Health Insurance After End of Open Enrollment

Open enrollment for health care under former President Barack Obama’s health care law ends Dec. 15, and while current Texas enrollment numbers are up from this time last year, new restrictions under the Trump administration may mean more uninsured Texans.

Under the Affordable Care Act, individuals who are not insured through an employer can buy plans through the federal government during the open enrollment period. In 2016, that period ran from Nov. 1 to Jan. 31 — but this year, it’s been cut in half to end Friday, Dec. 15.

While several states opted to extend the enrollment period, Texas, which runs its services through the federal webpage, did not.

Texas has seen 437,919 enrollees for the 2018 plan year as of Dec. 2, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — a 38.8 percent increase in enrollment when compared to this time last year. But that’s not much of a comfort to organizations trying to get more people enrolled.

“We only have half as much time to enroll people,” said Melissa McChesney, an outreach coordinator at the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank. “So we would have to be doing significantly better than we are right now in order to avoid a dip in enrollment numbers overall.”

“There is concern that we will see fewer Texans enroll in the marketplace, and that’s primarily because of the shortened enrollment period, and that does mean we are likely to see a higher number of uninsured Texans for 2018,” McChesney added.

Last year, a total of 1.2 million Texans bought insurance during the enrollment period, about one-sixth of whom were automatically enrolled after not changing their coverage from the previous year, McChesney said.

Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health care nonprofit, said that in previous years enrollment has surged just before Dec. 15.

“Most people last year, in all the states, signed up by Dec. 15 even though open enrollment went all the way until the end of January because if you want coverage to begin on Jan. 1, that was the deadline,” Pollitz said.

However, shortening the window to enroll is not the only cut made by the Trump administration affecting Texans trying to buy health insurance.

The administration cut the budget for outreach and advertising by 90 percent and slashed funding to the navigator program, in which someone walks potential buyers through the process, by 60 percent. Supporters of the Affordable Care Act said these cuts have led to a decrease in awareness about the enrollment period.

Drew White, a health care policy expert at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, said these restrictions were the administration’s attempts to roll back aspects of the law within their power.

“We don’t believe there is a whole lot they can do,” White said, referring to the president’s executive powers. “Congress is going to have to be the one to repeal the statutes when it comes to the regulations or to roll back the Medicaid expansion, that’s just going to be out of their purview.”

“Congress should have made good on its promise and repealed Obamacare this year as they have been promising for seven, eight years prior to that,” White said. “It’s just unfortunate because consumers are going to see their premiums and deductibles go up with fewer and fewer options as long as federal insurance regulations remain in statute.”

While it hasn’t been heavily publicized, Pollitz said there will be a special enrollment period through the end of December for people who are living in or have moved out of hurricane-affected areas. People wishing to enroll during this period will have to do so over the phone, she added.

“I think everybody, CMS [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services], the navigators, the other people who help folks sign up really, really want the message to be, ‘Sign up by Dec. 15. That is the best way to do it,’” Pollitz said. “Some people will need more time, or miss it, and will have this opportunity.”

In Congress, Republicans are promising to pass a new tax code by Christmas, and the current U.S. Senate plan includes a repeal of the portion of the ACA that requires all individuals to have health insurance.

The Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan congressional analysis organization, estimates that if the individual mandate is repealed, 13 million Americans will lose their health insurance in the next 10 years and that plans will have higher premiums as younger, healthier individuals opt to go without coverage.

McChesney said even if it’s repealed, the individual mandate would still be in effect until 2019.

“It’s important that people understand, who are considering purchasing ACA insurance right now, that they are still subject to the mandate and could potentially face a tax penalty if they go uninsured in 2018,” she said.

Disclosure: The Center for Public Policy Priorities, Kaiser Family Foundation and Texas Public Policy Foundation have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors is available here.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Texas is pushing the federal government for temporary funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program while Congress fights over a permanent solution. [Full story]
  • Open enrollment for health insurance, which begins Nov. 1, will be shorter this year, and President Donald Trump has slashed funding for subsidies and outreach. [Full story]
  • Watch the video of our event in Houston on the health care landscape following Hurricane Harvey, or check out our recap below. [Full story]

Author: CLAIRE ALLBRIGHT – The Texas Tribune

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.”

Amistad Not Impacted by Trump Decision to End ACA Enrollment Assistance in 18 U.S. Cities

Amistad’s Consumer Health Insurance Marketplace Enrollment Services (CHIMES) will not be impacted by a Trump Administration decision to end health insurance enrollment assistance under provisions of the Affordable Care Act of 2013 in 18 U.S. cities including El Paso.

“We will continue to provide the same enrollment services that we’ve been providing since the health care law was implemented in 2013,” said Marisol Vela, Amistad’s CHIMES Lead Navigator. “Persons who wish to access health insurance plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace may continue to count on us to provide enrollment help for the foreseeable future,” she said.

Under its contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Amistad will continue to provide enrollment assistance, public outreach and education services through 2018 to 23 counties in Far West Texas including El Paso County.

The termination of assistance services applies to assister programs administered by private companies including Cognosante, LLC and CRSA, Inc.

Amistad, a non-profit social services and transportation agency, is a Navigator Program that is not included in the Trump Administration’s move to terminate enrollment assistance services across the U.S.

Open enrollment for 2018 coverage will commence on November 1, 2017 and conclude on December 15, 2017.

For information, consumers may contact Amistad at 915-298-7307.

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)

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.”


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.”

CBO Report: 23 Million to Lose Coverage Under AHCA

AUSTIN, Texas – The Congressional Budget Office says 23 million Americans would lose their health insurance by 2026 if the American Health Care Act becomes law. Some 14 million of those 23 million would lose coverage because of plans to cut Medicaid by $884 billion.

Andy Slavitt, a senior adviser with the Bipartisan Policy Center, says states including Texas would have a hard time making up for a loss of federal Medicaid dollars.

“Kids, seniors, people with disabilities, low-income people lose their benefits,” he says. “I think we’d see hospitals have their ERs flooded again with patients who are not paying. It would obviously have a negative impact on the economy.”

The CBO predicts the uninsured rate would increase from 10 percent to close to 18 percent in the next decade. Texas already has the highest rate of uninsured people in the country.

The AHCA narrowly passed in the U.S. House earlier this month. Some Senate Republicans have promised that Medicaid recipients would be protected under the new law.

The CBO says the Republican plan could lower premiums by four to 20 percent by 2026. Slavitt notes those reductions would come at the expense of rising costs for low-income people as well as those with pre-existing conditions.

The plan also has a so-called “age tax,” which means Texans and others aged 50 to 64 would pay much higher premiums.

“Under the new law, if it were to pass, people who were in that age group would be able to be charged five times as much for insurance as younger people – in some cases, as much as $7,000 of additional costs to get covered,” he adds.

Proponents of the plan argue that block-granting Medicaid funds to states would spark innovative solutions. Slavitt disagrees.

“This really is about the federal government saving money – cutting the money that they give to states for care, and then taking that money and turning around and providing a tax break to very high-income people, the insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies,” he explains.

The CBO estimates the Republican bill could cut the federal deficit by $119 billion in 10 years.

The Congressional Budget Office says 23-million Americans would lose their health insurance by 2026 if the American Health Care Act becomes law. Mark Richardson looks at who is most at risk.

Author: Mark Richardson – Public News Service (TX)

Cornyn, Cruz, Hurd, O’Rourke Comment on Passage of American Health Care Act

After Thursday’s passage of the American Health Care Act, local and statewide representatives released statements regarding the vote.

Rep. Beto O’Rouke (via Facebook)

Today I voted against the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Like the original version of the bill, which failed to garner enough support for a vote in March, AHCA seeks to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with a system of tax credits and Medicaid block grants.

In the March version of the bill we knew that:

– 81,000 fewer El Pasoans would have health care

– 2.5 million fewer Texans would have health care

– 24 million fewer Americans would have health care

– Americans would see premium increases of 15–20% in 2018 and 2019

– Millions of veterans not enrolled in the VA would lose health care

– Fewer resources would be available to combat the opioid crisis

– There would be no requirement for mental health parity

– Women’s reproductive health would be defunded

The most notable changes to this version of the bill are two amendments. First, the McArthur Amendment, which allows states to determine the minimum coverage in the health care plans they offer. Currently, the ACA requires insurers to cover a host of essential health benefits like hospital stays, mental health, and maternity care. This amendment will allow insurers to consider health status when setting prices. This will directly impact patients with pre-existing conditions and older Americans who will be charged more for coverage.

The second amendment is the Upton Amendment. It adds $8 billion over 5 years to the bill to help those with pre-existing conditions pay for their insurance and health care needs. Unfortunately that is nowhere near enough and if implemented many people will soon find it difficult to pay for their health care needs.

There has been no updated analysis of this new version of the bill because it was rushed through without an official score from the Congressional Budget Office.

I voted against the bill which passed the House by a vote of 217-213. It now goes to the Senate where it meets an uncertain fate.

Rep. Will Hurd

“Since the implementation of Obamacare, I’ve told my constituents that the only meaningful metric when it comes to healthcare is actual access to quality, affordable care – not just health insurance. While the goal of Obamacare was to make healthcare more accessible and more affordable, it has done just the opposite. Likewise, while the goal of the American Health Care Act was to combat the skyrocketing premiums and outrageous deductibles millions of Americans face, it too, falls short.

“We must provide relief, but unfortunately, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) in its current form does not address the concerns of many of my constituents, including adequate protections for those with pre-existing conditions and the challenges faced by rural healthcare providers. I am unable to turn my back on these vulnerable populations because I believe we can and must do better for the American people.

“I will not support the AHCA in its current form and hope that we can continue making improvements to fix our broken healthcare system.”

Sen. John Cornyn

“Today is an important step forward in upholding our promise to give the American people relief from Obamacare,” Sen. Cornyn said. “The health care status quo is unacceptable. Premiums have skyrocketed, coverage options have disappeared, and small businesses have struggled under crushing taxes and mandates. Working alongside the Administration, making health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans will continue to be our top priority and this legislation sets us on a course to achieve that.”

Sen. Ted Cruz

“Today was an important step. I am encouraged that House Republicans were able to come together and pass a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. The House Freedom Caucus pressed hard to reduce premiums and make health care more affordable, and their efforts, in cooperation with the entire conference, substantially improved this bill.

“Our work now goes forward in the Senate, where we should continue to improve the bill. For many weeks, I have been working closely with my Senate colleagues, from across the ideological spectrum, on consensus reforms to make health insurance more affordable. We must deliver on that promise. I am optimistic we will get the job done, and honor our commitment to provide more choices for consumers, put people in control of their healthcare, and most importantly, lower premiums.”

GOP Health Care Amendment Could Hurt Most Vulnerable In NM

SANTA FE, N.M. – President Trump and GOP members of Congress have a new twist in their plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, and family advocates are more concerned than ever about the effect it would have on New Mexicans.

The “MacArthur Amendment,” named for the New Jersey Republican who negotiated it with leaders of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus, is what is most troubling to Lydia Mitts, associate director of affordability initiatives in health policy at Families USA. It would mean states could obtain waivers that would allow them to opt out of providing some of the “essential health benefits” currently required by the Affordable Care Act.

“There are 826,000 people in New Mexico who have a pre-existing condition, and this new amendment would put those hundreds of thousands of people at risk,” Mitts said; “also, people guaranteed that they’ll have coverage for basic services like maternity care, prescription drugs and mental health.”

While the amendment says people who stay insured can’t be charged more for pre-existing conditions, it does allow states to create a “high-risk pool” for those who have a lapse in coverage. It is unclear how those who can’t afford to prevent interruption of their health care will be affected.

Gov. Susana Martinez has openly supported efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, while New Mexico Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich along with U.S. Reps. Ben Luján and Michelle Grisham have urged the governor to oppose the American Health Care Act.

Mitts said lawmakers will be held accountable to the more than 500,000 who saw their lifetime caps on coverage lifted thanks to the Affordable Care Act, whether they enrolled in the program or not. She added that some assistance for members of New Mexico’s most vulnerable populations would be lost under this new amendment.

“Right now, over 33,000 people in New Mexico are getting help affording private insurance through financial assistance under the ACA,” Mitts said. “And under this bill, particularly New Mexicans who are older and are lower income could see that financial help cut substantially.”

The amendment satisfied hard-line conservatives who blocked the way for the AHCA to receive the 216 total votes it needed to pass the House. The plan faces even slimmer margins in the Senate before it can land on the president’s desk.

Author – Brett McPherson, Public News Service (NM)

Texas Groups Oppose Congress’ Second Try at Health Care Bill

AUSTIN – Congress could vote on a new version of the GOP’s American Health Care Act as early as this weekend, but a group of Texas health-care advocates is strongly opposing the bill. The proposal still makes insurance more expensive for older Americans, would strip an estimated 24 million people of coverage and lead to deep cuts in Medicaid.

Adriana Kohler, senior health policy associate with Texans Care for Children, believes the Republican majority in the House has managed to make an already bad health-care bill worse.

“This bill would give the option to states to take away protections for consumers, for kids, for pregnant women, for people with disabilities,” she said. “So, we strongly oppose the bill and state measures to opt into what might pass.”

The coalition, Cover Texas Now, includes advocates for children, families, patients and consumers. Kohler says the group is urging Congress to keep most parts of the current Affordable Care Act and make improvements where they’re needed.

Proponents of the changes say they’ll give states more flexibility.

Kohler says the changes proposed in the new health-care bill would make it harder for Texans who need coverage the most to get insurance.

“A new amendment to the bill would also let states strip protections for preexisting conditions,” she added. “That means insurers could discriminate and hike premiums based on your medical history.”

In her view, many of the changes would negatively affect families with kids. The bill would cut already-scarce Medicaid benefits in Texas, which Kohler says endangers both children and pregnant women.

“We urge Congress to go back to the drawing board and improve upon this plan,” said Kohler. “If you care about prenatal care or kids going to school healthy, then the Medicaid cuts for Texas in this bill are terrible news.”

President Trump has urged Congress to pass a health-care bill before his first 100 days in office are up this weekend. The original “repeal and replace” plan considered two weeks ago lacked support and was never brought up for a vote.

Author: Mark Richardson, Public News Service (TX)

Backers See ‘Medicare for All’ as Cure for U.S. Health Care

HOUSTON – With Republicans trying to resuscitate their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, the debate in Texas and elsewhere over how to fix the health-care system is heating up again.

While partisan divides remain deep, Glenn Pearson, former president of Physicians for a National Health Program, said the failure of the American Health Care Act presents a unique opportunity for President Trump to make good on campaign promises for more coverage and better benefits by moving beyond for-profit models.

“America is the only wealthy country in the world that has a free market, for-profit system,” Pearson said. “It treats health care as a commodity, like buying a TV. In every other country, health care is a human right.”

Pearson said the Medicare for All Act, introduced by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., would provide coverage to all Americans by expanding Medicare, the single-payer program already in place for people age 65 and older. Critics have said the move would be too costly, but research has shown most U.S. households would pay less than the current system of insurance premiums, deductibles and co-pays.

Pearson, while not a fan of the ill-fated “Trumpcare” proposal, noted that the Affordable Care Act still leaves many without coverage and channels billions of taxpayer dollars to private insurance companies. He said a majority of Americans, including Republicans, support a system where money currently going to administrative overhead and private profits is spent on patient care instead.

“There would be no deductibles, no co-insurance; there would be very small co-pays,” he said, “and so nobody would ever go bankrupt because they became ill.”

Even though more people have insurance since the rollout of the ACA, Pearson said, nearly 2 million Americans go bankrupt each year because of health-care expenses. A National Day of Action calling for universal health care is set for April 8, the first day of the congressional recess.

The Conyers bill’s text is online at, and an analysis is at

Hurd Statement on Healthcare Bill: ‘Insurance is not Healthcare’

In advance of Thursday’s vote overhauling the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Representative Will Hurd released the following statement:

“We must remember, that regardless of its goals, Obamacare has not made healthcare more accessible or more affordable. It has led to expensive and confusing insurance coverage for American families while adding regulations at the expense of small businesses. I see this first hand as I travel the district and hear stories of premiums doubling overnight and outrageous deductibles forcing families to spend their entire savings just to get the care they need.

“And what keeps getting lost in media coverage is this: insurance is not healthcare.  Seven years after the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, there are still millions of Texans who cannot access or afford quality healthcare. ‘Rates of the insured’ are irrelevant if these same people cannot afford to receive treatment.

“Obamacare is collapsing, so maintaining the status quo is not an option. While crisscrossing my district all year and driving 1,600 miles across the country last week, I’ve heard loud-and-clear that while the  American Health Care Act (AHCA) will increase insurance options and competition, it must help those who were previously uninsurable, and strengthen protections for the aged and disabled on Medicaid.

“This is why I’ve been encouraging Leadership in the House of Representatives to make changes to the AHCA prior to our vote on Thursday. Congress needs to provide states the flexibility to address their most pressing issues. I’ve asked for Medicaid expansion and non-expansion states to be treated equally, and I’ve asked that doctors who take care of these vulnerable populations receive the support they need so that they do not opt-out of treating Medicaid patients all together, further restricting access to care.

“Even after Obamacare is repealed, work still needs to be done like extending and expanding programs like the 1115 Waiver. This is a tool used by States to expand Medicaid access for children, families, and those in rural areas.

“I’ve also told House Leadership I will continue to champion funding for Community Health Centers and increased reimbursements for rural providers, and I believe that any final plan must integrate these critical components. I look forward to reading the final bill and hope that these provisions, which are extremely important to my constituents, are included.”


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 Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, 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.

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