Sebelius Touts Benefits of ACA, Exchanges During Visit to Texas
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius visited Texas Thursday, meeting with local officials and other stakeholders in Austin and San Antonio to discuss the Affordable Care Act's implementation, as well as the insurance exchanges and how they will benefit communities in 2014, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
Sebelius' visit to Texas is part of a two-week multistate tour to promote the ACA (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 8/8).
The tour is part of the Obama administration's outreach and education efforts to encourage millions of uninsured U.S. residents -- particularly those in states like Texas that oppose the law and have large uninsured populations -- to enroll in the exchanges that will begin open enrollment on Oct. 1.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) -- who has long opposed the ACA -- and the state Legislature have declined to expand Medicaid under the law, rejecting nearly $90 billion in federal funding. The state also has asked the government to operate the state's insurance exchange.
During her visit Thursday, Sebelius met privately with Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell (D) and leaders of Austin's health care community, before attending a meeting with San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro (D) and local health leaders, Texas Tribune/Kaiser Health News reports. Ahead of the meeting in Austin, she said the Obama administration is "eager to have discussions with Texas about a program that could look uniquely Texan," but noted that "as far as I know, those conversations, at least with the state officials, are not taking place right now."
According to the Tribune/KHN, state officials have criticized the administration's lack of transparency about how it will implement and operate the exchange (Aaronson, Texas Tribune/Kaiser Health News, 8/8). State officials also have argued that the law will drain federal and state budgets while negatively disrupting the health care system ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 8/8).
David Evans -- CEO of Austin Travis County Integral Care, who attended the meeting -- said such questions and the uncertainty "can be emotional or political." However, he noted that during the meeting, Sebelius "stayed right on the message as to what are the facts around the [ACA]."
Following the meeting, Sebelius said, "Unfortunately, there are lots of people in Texas who will still come through the doors of emergency rooms to access health care, leaving uncompensated care bills for those hospitals to deal with and less healthy conditions for individuals and their families" (Texas Tribune/Kaiser Health News, 8/8). Texas has the highest rate of uninsured residents in the country (Tomlinson, AP/Modern Healthcare, 8/8).
Perry Slams Effort To Explain "Increasingly Convoluted,' 'Increasingly Delayed' Exchanges
In a statement, Perry criticized Sebelius' visit to Texas, saying she should not be touring the state "to explain the increasingly convoluted and increasingly delayed implementation of the federal exchange system."
"With due respect, the secretary and our president are missing the point: It's not that Americans don't understand Obamacare, it's that we understand it all too well," he said ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 8/7). "In Texas, we've been fighting Obamacare from the beginning, refusing to expand a broken Medicaid system and declining to set up a state health insurance exchange," Perry added (Howell, Washington Times, 8/8).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.