Open enrollment for health insurance on the Affordable Care Act marketplace began Nov. 1, and a trio of local political leaders joined staff at the Foundation Communities Prosper Center in South Austin to encourage Texans to get covered between now and mid-January.
It’s a big task. Texas is one of just 12 states that has not expanded Medicaid eligibility to all residents with incomes of up to 138% of the federal poverty level – a decision that has cost 2 million Texans coverage and has left 1 in 5 residents uninsured. Texas also has one of the worst rates of maternal mortality in the country.
The state government’s refusal to expand Medicaid has also exacerbated significant racial disparities in health care. Austin City Council Member Vanessa Fuentes said that there are currently 100,000 Latino residents of Travis County alone who don’t have health insurance, and many of those residents face further barriers to care as well. “We don’t have a full-service hospital east of I-35,” Fuentes said. “In my part of Southeast Austin, we just had our first freestanding pharmacy built in the last year, and we’re just now building health care clinics in Del Valle and Hornsby Bend. So we already had the odds stacked against our community as it is, which makes it even more important that we … talk about the health insurance marketplace.”