Why encumber ‘navigators’ for healthcare?

Posted Wednesday, Oct. 02, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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More information Obamacare workshops All workshops start at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 22, Como Community Center, 4900 Horne St. Oct. 23, Texas Wesleyan, Lou's Place, 1112 Wesleyan St. Oct. 28, Moncrief Cancer Center, 400 W. Magnolia Oct. 29, All Saints Catholic Church, 214 N. W. 20th St.

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Many of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) kicked in on Tuesday, including the ability to purchase health insurance in an online marketplace and get financial assistance.

A family of four with an income of $35,000 can obtain decent health insurance for about $114 per month, and assistance is available for individuals making up to $45,960 or family of four making $94,200.

You would think the leaders of Texas, who serve a state where one in four people have no health insurance — the highest uninsured rate in the nation — would be overjoyed. That’s what makes Gov. Rick Perry’s recent action to sabotage the whole thing so bizarre.

Purchasing insurance and signing up for financial benefits can be complicated, so the launch of Obamacare included grants to local governments and established charities like Tarrant County United Way to train “navigators” to help people find their way through the process.

But two weeks ago, the governor asked the Texas Department of Insurance to impose regulations on these navigators that would create a tangled web of rules and red tape to make their jobs much harder.

I have tried to figure out why Perry of all people would suddenly develop a love affair with government regulation.

He must have known that his proposals directly violated federal and state laws, so it is difficult to escape the conclusion that he is deliberately trying to prevent people from finding out about their benefits under Obamacare.

People might decide they like Obamacare if they find out about their benefits. That might be a political problem for him, but for Perry to let politics stand in the way of Texans receiving health insurance is unconscionable and a betrayal of the very idea of being a public servant.

Fortunately, the people of Tarrant County have some elected officials who understand their needs. U.S. Rep. Marc Veasy, Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Brooks, Fort Worth school trustee Jacinto Ramos and I will be holding neighborhood-level workshops across Fort Worth to help people get enrolled in Obamacare and find other healthcare services.

We have already scheduled the first four, with more to come.

Healthcare is the critical issue facing Texas right now, for our leaders and our residents.

Earlier this year, Perry turned down as much as $100 billion from the federal government over the next 10 years to cover more of our working poor under Medicaid health insurance, with a 9-to-1 match for state dollars.

The next governor could accept that funding with the stroke of her pen on her first day in office and bring health insurance to as many as 1.5 million Texans, including 56,000 here in Tarrant County. It would effectively abolish the current, expensive practice of the uninsured delaying medical care until they are so sick they go to hospital emergency rooms.

The people of Fort Worth pay for this inefficient model through higher health insurance premiums and our hospital district taxes, with an average tax bill of $334 per year. So putting the uninsured on Medicaid would not only save everyone money, but I have been advised that our hospital districts could actually roll back taxes.

That’s right. Accepting Obamacare could mean a property tax cut.

It is up to our next governor to decide whether to continue the obstructionism of Rick Perry or to leave Washington-style hot air behind to do the right thing to serve the people of Texas.

It’s not about politics or ideology.

It’s simple accounting, which is why so many businesses and virtually every large chamber of commerce in Texas support the expansion of Medicaid.

Until then, come down to one of our Obamacare workshops or learn about your benefits at www.HealthCare.gov or by calling 1-800-318-2596. You can also call my Fort Worth office at any time at 817-924-1997.

State Rep. Lon Burnam represents District 90 in Fort Worth. lon.burnam@house.state.tx.us

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