Despite Texas Politicians’ Crusade Against Obamacare, The State Is Quietly Inching Toward Reform

CREDIT: Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

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CREDIT: Shutterstock

Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) may be trying their hardest to undermine the Affordable Care Act — but that’s not stopping Houston public health officials and outreach organizations from embarking on a “historic” campaign to sign Americans up for coverage under Obamacare, Kaiser Health News reports.

Nearly one in three Texans is uninsured, the highest uninsurance rate in the country. The Lone Star State also has higher rates of diabetes and obesity than the U.S. national average, as well as a higher death rate. Some low-income and uninsured Texans are so desperate for medical care that they cross over to Mexico in order to find cheaper drugs on the other side of the border.

But that hasn’t deterred Perry from rejecting generous federal funding to expand Medicaid under Obamacare — thereby denying 1.5 million poor Texans basic health benefits — or Cruz from launching a 21-hour faux-filibuster railing against the health law. Texas officials are even refusing to police Obamacare’s most basic protections, such as barring insurers from rejecting consumer with pre-existing medical conditions.

With little support and even less funding from state and federal officials, community organizations and health departments are taking on the burden of explaining the health law to an extremely confused population. They’ll work to sign up the uninsured for coverage through the statewide marketplace launching on October 1st.

“Regardless of whether you are for the Affordable Care Act or you’re against the Affordable Care Act, we’re not looking at it that way,” said Houston health official Benjamin Hernandez in an interview with Kaiser Health News. “We’re saying that, from a public health perspective, getting people insured and getting them into the system is a good thing to do.”

Groups such as Enroll America are relying on third party funding to get volunteers on the ground to help officials like Hernandez. The organization is targeting ten states — most with governors or legislature hostile to Obamacare — including Texas, where it has dispatched volunteers to identify and enroll the uninsured by any means possible. That could mean events at community colleges, back-to-school events, or even outside of the local CVS where they talk to locals about what government-subsidized insurance could mean for them.

“This is not a conversation about politics,” said Enroll America President Anne Filipic in an interview with The Hill. “This is a conversation about what does this mean to you, to your family, to your pocketbook. And there’s such power in that.”