Texas

Thanks to Don Kramer for the heads up:

News Alert – July 23, 2015
Individual/Consumer Markets
What to Expect for 2106 Open Enrollment Plans

On Monday, the Texas Department of Insurance gave Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX) the clearance to announce a change in retail product offerings for 2016. We wanted to share this information with you first.

...There are some changes in the plans we intend to offer in 2016. Most significantly, we won’t be offering our Blue Choice PPO insurance plans for our under 65 block of business going forward.

We intend to offer other products, on and off the Marketplace. A new product has been filed that we believe will give you a flexible choice for your clients. We will be able to share information about that product if and when it is approved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) closer to open enrollment.

...Currently, we have about 367,000 individual Texas members who will have their PPO plan discontinued in 2016. This number fluctuates monthly.

I think the headline accurately depicts former Texas Governor and current Presidential Candidate Rick "Do The Glasses Make Me Look Smarter?" Perry's defense of the appallingly high uninsured rate in Texas during his 14-year tenure as chief executive of the state.

Perry appeared on FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace this morning, and for the 2nd week in a row, Wallace actually acted like a Real Journalist® instead of a GOP/FOX hack and pressed Perry with some solid questions regarding the sorry state of healthcare coverage in his state.

Of the 6.5 million people who would lose their federal tax credits, and almost certainly their healthcare coverage (completely apart from the additional 6.5 million who would have an economic boulder dropped on them indirectly) in the event of a King v. Burwell plaintiff win, over 1/3 live in just two states: Florida and Texas. 1.34 million Floridians and 846,000 Texans would be be among the direct casualties...close to 2.2 million between the two of them.

Given that both are completely run by off-the-rails batcrap-insane Republicans in the House, Senate and Governor's office, it's safe to say that you can expect a LOT of stories like the following from the Sunshine and Lone Star states.

Oh, wait; that's a scarlet "S".

Roughly a million Texans with government-subsidized health coverage could see a new label on their health insurance cards, and critics say the designation is akin to a “scarlet letter.”

But instead of Hester Prynne’s infamous “A,” insurance cards for Texans with coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act would bear the letter “S,” for subsidy.

Supporters of House Bill 1514 by state Rep. J.D. Sheffield, R-Gatesville, say it’s necessary to standardize insurance cards and clarify the type of health coverage a patient has.

Needless to say, I'm appalled.

Joan McCarter over at Daily Kos has already given a proper takedown of this utterly unnecessary & shameful bill.

UPDATE 5/27/15: Well, the Texas Senate has now passed the same bill, although they've slightly modified it:

After the one-two punches of both Rhode Island and Vermont moving in exactly the wrong direction (at least before the King v. Burwell SCOTUS decision is announced this summer), my jaw nearly dropped when I read this story out of Texas, of all states:

LEGISLATURE: Bills would create Texas' own health benefit exchange

AUSTIN -- On Wednesday, State Rep. Chris Turner (HD 101-Grand Prairie) filed two bills, HB 818 and HB 817, both creating a state health benefit exchange.

This is an excellent overview of how healthcare pundits, politicos, reporters and industry folks are keeping a very close eye on the ACA exchanges this weekend, as the December 15th deadline for January coverage approaches (well, for most states, that is; 6 states now have deadlines later than the 15th). It's well worth a read, as it goes into the whole "manual renewal" vs. "autorenewal" issue and a whole mess of other stuff.

However, towards the end are two additional data points:

CMS officials, including Marketplace CEO Kevin Counihan have been reassuring about auto-enrollment, said Martin Hickey, CEO of New Mexico’s co-op health plan. “It’s a stressor, but I haven’t seen him biting his fingernails,” Hickey said of Counihan. “But you never know.” His own health plan has had 3,ooo people sign up as of Dec. 10 through HealthCare.gov and the pace is picking up.

A reader forwarded this to me; I ran a search for the organization they referred to and sure enough, it's legit:

Email today from Texas Well and Healthy that might suggest another one of those "we have to craft a uniquely TX solution for a uniquely TX problem because Obamacare sucks" deal. Copy follows...

County Leaders Call for Insurance Solution as Texas Senate Commitee Discusses Alternatives to Medicaid Expansion

Our state leaders may be moving slow on health care, but local leaders are giving them a nudge in the right direction.

Leaders of six of the state's largest counties -- ranging from Harris County's Republican Judge Emmett to Dallas County's Democratic Judge Jenkins -- have joined together to call on the legislature to find a "uniquely Texas solution" to covering uninsured low-wage workers.

The county leaders wrote to the legislature as the Senate Health and Human Services Committee met to discuss Texas alternatives to Medicaid expansion.

I posted something about this a few days ago, but it didn't get nearly as much buzz/attention as I would have figured, probably due to my soft-selling the headline. Anyway, Enroll America has released a report which estimates that there's up to 6.7 million people who could qualify to enroll in a new, ACA-compatible health insurance plan via HC.gov (or their state exchange, depending on where they live).

The current article focuses specifically on Texas, where up to 365,000 people should be eligible to enroll right now, even though it's the "off-season", due to major life changes such as recently getting married, divorced, having a child, losing their job and so on.

Round two of Obamacare enrollment starts Nov. 15. But a group promoting signups wants Texas’ 5 million uninsured adults between the ages of 18 and 64 to know that as many as 365,000 of them are eligible today to go online and enroll in the federally run health insurance marketplace.

This is one of the lamest examples of negative spin that I've seen in awhile. The WSJ MarketWatch breathlessly reports that...

Fresh off a Philadelphia Fed survey of manufacturers finding that the Affordable Care Act is acting as a drag on hiring and increasing part-time employment, a Dallas Fed survey finds the much same thing.

Like the Philly Fed survey, it was tacked on to an existing monthly survey of conditions. In this case, a net 23.5% of respondents say the number of workers employed is lower due to the effects of what’s commonly called Obamacare. Part-time work is up, the amount of work outsourced is up, wages and salary compensation per worker is down, other benefits are down, and prices charged are higher.

Like many other Republican-run states, Texas not only refused to set up their own ACA exchange or expand Medicaid, the state government actively sought out to prevent people from enrolling, actually enacting absurdly strict "regulations" to prevent ACA Navigators from doing their job to help people learn about their rights and how to go through the process:

The navigators must register with the state, undergo a background check and fingerprinting, and complete 20 hours of additional training — beyond the 20 to 30 hours of federal training they've already received.

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