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Sebelius Blames Texas Opposition for State's Lagging Obamacare Signups

Veronica Zaragovia, KUT
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius speaks in Austin on March 28, 2014, days before the deadline to sign up for health insurance through the federal marketplace.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was in Austin today, as part of the final push for people to sign up for health insurance ahead of a Monday deadline. She also came to urge Texas leaders to expand Medicaid eligibility. 

During her comments, Sebelius said although everything is bigger in Texas, having the highest rate of uninsured in the U.S. is nothing to boast about.

To chip away at the roughly 25 percent of Texans without health insurance, Sebelius renewed her call for Texas leaders to expand Medicaid eligibility.  

"Because if Texas doesn’t take up the portion of the Affordable Care Act that would expand Medicaid coverage for the lowest income working Texans, there’ll still be a major coverage gap," Sebelius said.

Sebelius says of the roughly 5 million uninsured in Texas, about half would qualify under expanded Medicaid.

Asked whether she blames Texas leadership for the lagging signups in Texas, Sebelius says it hasn't been helpful to have "government officials trying to block navigators from trying to get information to people," as well as "legal challenges to a constant barrage of misinformation."

Gov. Rick Perry responded in a written statement.

“Yet again, the Obama Administration would rather point fingers at other people than accept any of the responsibility for Obamacare’s failure," Perry wrote. "The truth is, the more people learn about Obamacare, the less they like it, and the most egregious examples of misinformation have come directly from the president himself, with false promises that people could keep their existing plans and they could continue going to their own doctor. Texas is not the reason Obamacare is failing; it’s failing because it’s simply bad policy.”

Through the end of February, almost 300,00 people in Texas had signed up for a plan – less than half the number federal officials hoped for. The deadline to have started the application process is March 31.

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