Needy Texans finally get insurance

Posted Tuesday, Oct. 01, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Tuesday is an important day for Tarrant County and the entire nation. For the first time, millions of Americans will have the chance to purchase health insurance that meets their needs and fits their budget — while removing the uncertainly of life without coverage.

Each day, my office hears the stories of the uninsured in Tarrant County. Students and young professionals worry about their future if an unexpected illness or accident comes their way. Some families without health insurance worry about their children on sports teams, afraid that a common sports injury could impact their financial stability.

Many parents have health problems of their own and are left reaching out to their churches and friends when they get sick or need medical treatment.

There are more than 6 million uninsured Texans, including one in three of those who are of working age. In Tarrant County we have an estimated 418,000 residents without health insurance.

According to new census data released Sept. 19, Texas has more uninsured than any other state. At a time when businesses either can’t afford or choose not to offer employee health benefits, too many people in Tarrant County and across the state are left with few options for adequate health care.

The fear of being uninsured leaves too many feeling vulnerable. People living with the threat of medical bills they can’t afford often skip their own check-ups and doctor visits. There are an estimated 48,000 preventable deaths among the uninsured each year.

Exploring options and enrolling in health insurance will bring peace of mind to families across Tarrant County.

For many this means staying healthier for longer by taking advantage of preventive care. And in times of illness or injury, knowing there is a path to recovery they can count on is priceless.

Many uninsured Texans will find they qualify for low-cost insurance options for the first time through the Health Insurance Marketplace. They’ll have several options to choose from that fit their personal budgets.

The Health Insurance Marketplace established through the Affordable Care Act offers a variety of plans, all of which will include the basic services most people rely on to stay healthy. Every insurance plan sold through this marketplace will include check-ups, prescriptions, maternity care, hospital visits, mental health care and preventive services.

Before the Affordable Care Act, consumers looking for health insurance were often skeptical, knowing loopholes and fine print could interrupt or void coverage when they needed it most. Those days are behind us, and now insurers can no longer deny coverage based on preexisting conditions or a current illness like diabetes or cancer.

Shoppers can compare plans side-by-side. Experts will be available to answer questions in person, by phone and online at HealthCare.gov.

For those who need help to get covered, financial assistance is available on a sliding scale. A family of four earning $40,000 a year would be eligible to receive enough assistance to cover most of the cost of their premiums. A family earning $80,000 a year would also receive assistance, but the amount would be less.

Texans who like their current health insurance plan can keep it. Even those plans will be stronger with new protections, and those individuals will not be dropped from their plan when they get sick or have to pay out of pocket for preventive care services.

For Texans who could not afford the coverage they need before now, the opening of the new Health Insurance Marketplace is a moment for celebration.

Roy Charles Brooks is serving his third term as Tarrant County commissioner for Precinct 1.

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