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Doctors push for health care for those in 'coverage gap'

'Texas Way' plan aims to cover 100,000 residents in Bexar County

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SAN ANTONIO – A group of area doctors has spearheaded a push to provide health care coverage for those who fall into an insurance coverage gap.

Doctors for Social Responsibility have come up with a solution called "Texas Way."

"The enrollees are going to have to come up with some co-pays, they're going to have to make contributions to health savings accounts, and so it depends on how it's implemented," said Dr. Jaime Estrada, president of Doctors for Social Responsibility.

Estrada was among a group of health care leaders joined by Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who revealed their plan during a press conference at the Bexar County Courthouse Wednesday morning.

The insurance coverage gap is a problem that strongly affects the working poor. Those in the group earn too much for Medicaid coverage and too little for coverage under the Affordable Care Act and can't afford high premiums on their own.

"That gap is about 100,000 folks in Bexar County," said George Hernandez, president and CEO of University Health System. "That's a lot."

Doctors say a big concern is the fact that those without insurance don't tend to get proper health care and often go to hospitals instead.

"Getting medical care only in the emergency room means that chronic conditions go untreated, with no follow-up or preventive medical attention until their next crisis visit to the emergency room," said Estrada.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry had rejected the use of federal funds for a state insurance plan, but the group believes current Gov. Greg Abbott may have a new perspective.

"We did hear remarks from our governor awhile back that he's interested in hearing about it, which is a big step above our previous governor, so we'll see if anything comes of it," Wolff said.

The Texas Way will be presented to lawmakers while they're in session over the next few weeks. Meanwhile, the deadline to sign up for health insurance coverage on the federal marketplace is Feb. 15.

Those who don't have insurance will face financial penalties.