Health Insurance

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

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There has been a huge drop in the number of Texans calling state regulators over surprise medical bills in the past six months.

A new law went into effect at the beginning of the year requiring medical providers and insurance companies to figure out payment disputes themselves – instead of sending bills to patients.

Steve Alvarez started feeling sick in late June. His symptoms were mild at first, but then he developed a fever, chills and shortness of breath. He thought it was a bad cold he just couldn't shake.

"Just when I started to get to feeling better and I would have a couple of good days," Alvarez says. "I felt like I'd backtrack and I was just really run down. This thing lingered and lingered."

hospital treatment rooms
Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

According to recent reports by the Urban Institute and the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 1 million Texans are projected to lose their health insurance because of the economic recession in the U.S. caused by the coronavirus. That's in addition to the approximately 5 million people – equivalent to about 18% of the state's population– who are already uninsured.

A "closed" sign on a business on South Congress
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Unlike the last time there was a nationwide recession, folks who lose their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic – and the health insurance that comes with them – may have a backup.

Telemedicine laws in Texas got revamped this week as the coronavirus spreads through the state.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday he was waiving a slew of regulations that made it harder for doctors to treat people remotely, also known as telemedicine or telehealth.

An empty examining room at a hospital
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Tiffany Conner, 43, has spent a large chunk of her life without health insurance. There was a brief period, she said, when she made so little money she was eligible for Texas' Medicaid program.

A helicopter pad at Ascension Seton Medical Center
Julia Reihs / KUT

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas has agreed to repay consumers after state regulators found the health insurance company was mishandling out-of-network emergency claims and providing incorrect information.

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The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a Texas-led challenge to the Affordable Care Act, the justices said Monday, marking the third major case in which former President Barack Obama's landmark health law has earned the scrutiny of the country’s highest court.

It appears Texas will get one of the strongest laws in the nation against surprise medical bills after all.

Earlier this year, lawmakers passed legislation to protect people in state-regulated health plans from getting outrageous bills for out-of-network care.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled the Affordable Care Act's mandate requiring people to have health insurance is unconstitutional.

Any day now, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans could rule that the entire Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.

At least it seemed that two of the three appeals court judges were leaning that way during oral arguments in the case, State of Texas v. USA, in July.

For millions of Americans, time is running out to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act's online marketplace healthcare.gov.

For those who will not receive health coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2020 through an employer or other programs like Medicaid, Medicare or the Children's Health Insurance Program — commonly referred to as CHIP — the deadline to purchase health insurance is Sunday, Dec. 15.

Texas Capitol
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Texas’ bipartisan effort to shield patients from surprise medical bills could be weaker than lawmakers intended when it takes effect Jan. 1.

Jan Lance and Rene Lara walk down a street in Southeast Austin
Julia Reihs / KUT

A group of about 20 people gathered in Southeast Austin on a chilly Saturday morning to knock on doors in nearby neighborhoods. The #SickOfItTX event was one of seven across the state aimed at organizing Texans around the state's uninsured rate, which is the highest in the country.  

A decision in the latest court case to threaten the future of the Affordable Care Act could come as soon as this month. The ruling will come from the panel of judges in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard oral arguments in the Texas v. Azar lawsuit.

An estimated 24 million people get their health coverage through programs created under the law, which has faced countless court challenges since it passed.

An ambulance in front of a hospital entrance.
Spencer Selvidge for KUT

Nearly 1 in 3 Texans in neighborhoods of color have medical debt, according to a new study from the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

More than 5 million Texans didn’t have health insurance in 2018, according to figures released today from the U.S. Census Bureau. The year before, about 4.8 million Texans lacked coverage.

Spencer Selvidge for KUT

Texans who get their health insurance from a large employer are more likely to get a surprise bill in an emergency compared to people with similar plans in other states, according to research published Thursday.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Almost two-thirds of Texans think state lawmakers should expand Medicaid to cover more low-income uninsured people, according to a survey funded by the Episcopal Health Foundation.

Carol Marley wants everyone to know what a life-threatening cancer diagnosis looks like in America today.

Yes, it's the chemotherapy that leaves you weak and unable to walk across the room. Yes, it's the litany of tests and treatments – the CT scans and MRIs and biopsies and endoscopies and surgeries and blood draws and radiation and doctor visits. Yes, it's envisioning your funeral, which torments you day and night.

But none of these is her most gnawing, ever present concern.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Consumer advocates and health insurers are pushing Texas lawmakers to address surprise medical bills during this year’s legislative session.

President Trump instructed administration officials Wednesday to investigate how to prevent surprise medical bills, broadening his focus on drug prices to include other issues of price transparency in health care.

Flanked by patients and other guests invited to the White House to share their stories of unexpected and outrageous bills, Trump directed his health secretary, Alex Azar, and labor secretary, Alex Acosta, to work on a solution, several attendees said.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

A growing number of Texans are turning to a little-known state mediation program to deal with surprise hospital bills. However, the program is likely only addressing a fraction of the surprise medical bills Texans receive in the mail every year. 

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Soon after a federal judge ruled Friday that the Affordable Care Act was invalid, Gov. Greg Abbott told The Dallas Morning News that Texas would create its own health care system if the decision is upheld.

It won't be that simple. Here are some things you should know about Abbott’s plan:

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More than 1 million Texans signed up for health insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act during the enrollment period that ended the day after a federal judge ruled the law is invalid. That's almost 40,000 fewer sign-ups than during the last enrollment period.

Julia Reihs / KUT

Editor's note: Shortly after this story aired, Rodriguez said St. David's reached out to him to discuss possible financial assistance. According to Rodriguez, the matter has been settled and he now owes only $1,600 as of Nov. 14.

There’s an uptick in health insurance companies not covering emergency room care, according to a consumer advocacy group.

Washington, D.C.-based Consumers for Quality Care said the increase is the result of the Trump administration pushing less regulated health care plans in its effort to undo protections created by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Travis County commissioners have decided to push back a decision on whether Central Health should shut down its nonprofit health insurance company, known as Sendero. They said they will wait to vote until there is a public hearing.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The Trump administration recently announced big cuts to a program that helps people sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Many Texans are struggling to afford health care, according to a new survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Episcopal Health Foundation.

The study found more than half of those surveyed (55 percent) said it is difficult for them and their families to afford health care; a quarter said it is "very difficult."

Spencer Selvidge / KUT News

From Texas Standard.

Whenever there’s a medical emergency the very first thing on one’s mind – especially if they’re insured – isn’t typically how much the bill could be. It’s to get help as quickly as possible, then deal with the cost later.

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