KEMPNER – Census Bureau data released last week suggests 17 percent of Texans are uninsured, according to the United Way of Central Texas. That percentage is roughly five points higher than the national average, according to research compiled by Gallup in 2016.
Researchers from the University of California Berkeley recently found the cost of coverage was the primary reason why people did not buy insurance.
Angela Ossler, 30, lives in Kempner with her husband and four children. She suffers from Lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease. And, for years, she was denied coverage by insurance companies that cited Lupus as a pre-existing medical condition.
When President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, Ossler was initially pleased because the law made it illegal for insurance giants to deny coverage to people like her with preexisting conditions. But, when Ossler tried to sign up for insurance through the healthcare marketplace, she was met with high deductibles that were out of her price range. She claims some plans had deductibles as high as $12,000.
"I really was for Obamacare and then it kind of turned out not to be such a great thing,” Ossler said.
Recent analysis by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation shows the average deductible on an employer-provided insurance plan has tripled since 2006 – from $500 then to $1,500 today.
“Money should never be a factor on whether you live or die, and unfortunately in this day and age, that's kind of what it's become,” Ossler said.
Angela had a heart attack a few years ago, and she is $30,000 in medical debt. Even though she and her husband Cody Myers can barely afford their bills, they were still required to pay a roughly $600 penalty last year for not having insurance.
"It's almost taking money out of the poor people's pockets,” Myers said.
While the number of uninsured Texans is not ideal, it has dropped since last year. Aly McMillan, a health insurance navigator at the United Way of Central Texas, is trying to keep improving that figure by pairing people with insurance plans that match their needs.
"In Bell County, we have 57 different health insurance plans,” McMillan said. “So, [we’re] helping each and every person understand what those plans cover, how they cover it and what it costs to them."
Open enrollment for 2017 through the health insurance marketplace resumes in November. And, the United Way offers assistance to people looking for coverage.
Click here for the United Way’s website.
Click here for information about enrolling through the marketplace.
Marketplace Phone Number: 1-800-318-2596
United Way Phone Number: 254-778-8616
(© 2016 KCEN)