Health and Human Secretary Sebelius touts health care law in SA

Sebelius discusses Affordable Care Act; More than 6 million Texans uninsured


SAN ANTONIO – Inside City Hall Thursday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius met with local leaders, insurers, health care providers and community groups about how the federal government's Affordable Care Act will impact San Antonio.

Sebelius' was in Austin prior to her visit to the Alamo City and will make a stop in Houston in the coming weeks.

Her Texas tour is no happenstance. The Lone Star State is home to the highest number of uninsured residents in the nation- more than 6 million- and state leadership staunchly opposes President Obama's health care law.

"There are lots of people in Texas who don't really think the law is going to be implemented, who have no idea if its ever going to apply to them because they've been told so often in the last three and a half years that Texas will not participate," said Sebelius in a one-on-one interview with KSAT 12 News.

But her message to San Antonians: it's going to happen.

Online insurance exchanges open nationwide Oct. 1 where businesses and individuals can shop for affordable coverage.

"Insurance companies won't be able to lock anyone out because of a pre-existing health condition," Sebelius said. "They won't be able to dump you out of the market if you get sick. And that's very good news for a lot of people who have not had that security of health coverage."

Americans will be required to have coverage in 2014 or potentially pay a fee of 1% of your yearly income or $95/person, whichever is higher.

Those fees increase annually. Fees for uninsured children also apply.

Another uniquely Texas challenge to implementing the law is Gov. Rick Perry's refusal to expand Medicaid, which the federal government is offering to pay for in part as part of the act.

"A very generous offer by the government that we'll pay 100% of the cost for the first three years and then 90% from that point on," Sebelius added.

But Perry calls Medicaid "a broken system" and says the health care law is a violation of personal liberty and state sovereignty. He has said he will not help implement the Affordable Care Act unless required to by law.

Without Medicaid expansion, people who make less than 100% of the poverty line- more than about $13,000 a year- will not be able to receive federal assistance to pay for insurance coverage.

But those Texans will still seek care and residents who are already insured, said Sebelius, are paying for that.

Sebelius adds the head of the Texas Hospital Association told her Thursday that 26% of bills at Texas hospitals go unpaid.

After leaving San Antonio, Sebelius will visit Atlanta, Georgia. She could make another visit to the Alamo City this fall.

To learn more about the Affordable Care Act and how it could impact you, visit www.healthcare.gov or www.cuidadodesalud.gov.

You can also call a government hotline 24/7 at 1-800-318-2596 to speak with a live person in up to 150 languages.

For a list of recent stories Myra Arthur has done, click here.

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