U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is visiting Texas to describe how the federal health care overhaul would work at the grassroots level.
Sebelius joined Dallas and Dallas County officials and community activists at Los Barrios Unidos Community Clinic in Dallas, where two-thirds of the patients don't have health insurance, to discuss how best to inform communities on the Affordable Care Act also known as "Obamacare."
The new law will impact their families and their pocketbooks.
“Millions of people have never had a choice." Sebelius said. "That changes Tuesday,”
Enrollment under the Affordable Care Act begins Tuesday, October 1. By next year, everyone in the country is require to have health insurance, or they will pay a fine.
“Folks who see the emergency room as their only doorway to care, or don't have healthcare at all, or are terrified to get a checkup because they know there's nowhere to follow up, or can't fill a prescription because they don't have coverage, I think will have some help,” said Sebelius.
Los Barrios Unidos qualified to hire three workers just to help sign up patients at the clinic and in the community. Every year, the nonprofit serves 21,000 low-income patients. Around 14,000 of those kids and adults don’t have insurance, including Jose Villegas and his 2-month-old son, Romeo.
“I guess you have to do it, you know. It's for your family. So basically we have no choice,” said Villegas. Villegas says many families will have to choose between healthcare and putting food on the table.
The measure originally required all states to enroll citizens making less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level in Medicaid, the joint state-federal health care program for the poor and disabled. But Gov. Rick Perry has rejected all proposals to expand Medicaid, a system he calls broken.
That means those who can't afford health insurance could turn to subsidized private coverage in a federally run Texas marketplace.
Patients have a choice between plans on that marketplace. There will be up to 53 plans to choose from here in the DFW area.
However, the government is essentially offering four levels of private healthcare coverage, each with varying deductibles and co-pays:
- Platinum level covers 90-percent of costs
- Gold covers 80-percent of costs
- Silver covers 70-percent of costs
- Bronze covers 60-percent of costs
On the Silver plan, a single 27-year-old, earning $25,000 per year could expect to pay $145 a month after tax credits as a preminum for the government healthcare coverage.
A family of four earning $50,000 could pay $282 a month after tax credits on that same plan.
However, the cost is different for everyone -- we have an entire special section devoted to answering questions about the "Obamacare" requirements.