by JC Dufresne
for the “Progressive Views” column, Boerne Star, November 22, 2019
It’s that time of year again when people without employer-provided health insurance can sign up for a plan on the marketplace provided under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Open enrollment started November 1 and runs until December 15. Donald Trump, with help from congressional Republicans, has made it harder for people to sign up by reducing the open enrollment period and cutting funding for promotion and assistance. But it’s still possible to find help if you need it.
Healthcare.gov has links to local assistance providers; you can also renew or update your existing plan at this site. While Trump has been messing with the financing, he managed in some ways to accidentally lower the premium in some cases. In nearby Guadalupe County, a forty-year-old making $20,000 a year can get a Gold level insurance plan for just $32 a month or a Bronze plan for $0. If that forty-year-old earns $35,000, a Gold plan will cost them $223 a month or $105 a month for a Bronze plan. Gold level plans have lower deductibles than Bronze or Silver plans. Kendall County rates are similar.
Previously I’ve spoken to folks who help people sign up for Obamacare plans and they told me that while some folks don’t qualify for the subsidies that get the premiums so low, they also find people who qualify for Medicaid or their children qualify for CHIP and don’t know it, so they help them sign up for that. More resources are available at www.ehealthinsurance.com/medicare. Unfortunately, after a fair bit of research, there appears to be no organization or agency in Kendall County that provides in-person assistance with the enrollment process.
There are roughly five million Texans without health insurance or nearly 18% of the state population. Texas has both more people uninsured as well as a higher percentage of uninsured of any state in the country. Approximately 1.25 million Texas children under eighteen are among those uninsured.
A study by the Texas Alliance for Health Care shows the lack of health insurance would cause hardships for hospitals, physicians, and ordinary Texans.
Among the study’s findings: In 2016, the cost of lower lifetime earnings and worse health for uninsured Texans was $57 billion. Barring any change in policy, that cost will rise to $178.5 billion by 2040. The $3.5 billion price tag for hospitals and physicians who provide unsubsidized and uncompensated care in 2016 will rise to $12.4 billion by 2040 without a change in policy. The value of lost earnings and poor health due to lack of health insurance in Texas is estimated to be $178.5 billion in 2040 (or $74 billion in 2016 dollars).
Speaking of uncompensated care, Texas is seeing a rash of closures of rural county hospitals primarily due to funding shortfalls caused by the state failing to accept Medicaid expansion. You can thank our state representative Kyle Biedermann and Governor Greg Abbott for that. All the Democratic candidates for president are talking about how they plan to fix this nation’s health insurance mess. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren offer sweeping plans that would take Medicaid and CHIP out of the hands of the state and make sure every American has health insurance. Consider that when listening to all the candidates as you decide who to support in the March primary.